Grayson impresses as Saints secure win against Nottingham

James Grayson scored for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
James Grayson scored for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

James Grayson scored 12 points as Saints grabbed a second win in as many pre-season matches at Franklin's Gardens on Thursday night.

Jim Mallinder named a largely second-string side for the clash with Nottingham and the men in green, black and gold just had enough as they earned a 32-21 success.

Grayson, son of Saints legend Paul, scored a first half try and also added two conversions and a drop goal.

Rory Hutchinson, Paul Hill, Paddy Ryan, the former Leinster Academy back row forward, and Alex Mitchell were the other try scorers.

On a night when youth was mixed with experience, Saints assistant coach Phil Dowson got a five-minute run-out at the end of the match to help his club get over the line for the win.

Saints will now head to Stirling to face Glasgow Warriors with a stronger side in their third pre-season friendly on Saturday afternoon.

But those who lined up against Nottingham certainly knew they had been in a game as the second tier side put up a fight from the off.

The men in blue and white flooded forward in pursuit of an early try, but Saints' defence stood tall.

And the hosts were to score first as Jamie Elliott offloaded to Hutchinson, who cruised in for the try.

Grayson converted from in front of the posts to make it 7-0, but Nottingham recovered rapidly and replied through a score from full-back Sean Scanlon.

Tiff Eden added the extras to level the scores and Saints were struggling to to find favour with referee Andrew Jackson, who had awarded a steady stream of penalties to the visitors.

Nottingham were looking the sharper and Saints were struggling to get any territory as their handling let them down when they did get the chance to get out of defensive mode.

And Mallinder's men were to fall behind for the first time when Eden found space and dived over before adding the conversion.

But anything the Nottingham fly-half could do, his Saints counterpart could do, too, as Grayson put the finishing touches to a quick move to score.

Grayson also converted, restoring parity in the process, but scrum-half Tom Kessell was soon yellow carded to reduce Saints to 14 men.

When Kessell returned to the field, the scores were still locked at 14-14 and Saints soon set about getting their lead back.

A fine move, started by a tidy kick from Grayson and including good work from Michael Paterson and Alex Moon, saw prop Hill rampage over the line for a fine score.

Grayson missed the conversion and there was a second Saints yellow card as Hutchinson was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

Nottingham took immediate advantage with a lovely try as replacement Sec Cecil juggled a chip ahead and touched down.

Eden converted to put Nottingham 21-19 up, but the lead was shortlived as Grayson, who was enjoying an impressive evening, landed a drop goal.

Hutchinson soon returned to bolster the home ranks, along with a raft of replacements, who freshened things up for Saints.

And the home side were soon making their lead more comfortable as Ryan crashed over for his team's fourth score of the night.

Grayson missed the conversion but the moment of the evening was to come as Dowson, who left Worcester to return to Saints as assistant coach this summer, made his playing return in the green, black and gold.

The back row forward came on for the final five minutes, to the delight of the Saints players and fans watching from the stands.

And Dowson was able to celebrate with his team-mates before the end as Mitchell raced in down the left to grab a score that put the gloss on the scoreline.

Saints: Furbank (Dowson 75); K Pisi (Sleightholme 46), Stephenson (Strachan 66), Hutchinson, Elliott (Mitchell 45); Grayson, Kessell; van Wyk (Beesley 60), Haywood (Marshall 52), Hill (Painter 60); Moon, Paterson (Peters 60); Nutley (Ryan 60), Allman (Fish 66), Dickinson (c) (D Onojaife 60).

Nottingham: Scanlon; Williams, Cobden, Evans, Spittle; Eden, Veenendaal; Penman, Stevens, Burke; Holmes, Qualter; Morris (c), Coghlan, Poullet.
Replacements: Brownlie, Jack, Langley, Cardall, Cox, Robinson, McConnell, Lyons, Hakalo, Goble, Cecil.

Referee: Andrew Jackson

Attendance: 2,401

Tom Stephenson started at outside centre

Tom Stephenson started at outside centre

Ben Nutley put in a battling display

Ben Nutley put in a battling display