Difficult matches are the making of Saints youngster Mallinder

Harry Mallinder has learned a lot since breaking into the Saints team last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Harry Mallinder has learned a lot since breaking into the Saints team last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints were top of most of the charts last Saturday, but they were unable to boss the thing that mattered most: the scoreline.

In Premiership Rugby’s weekly round-up of the best performers from the latest round of games, Northampton players popped up regularly.

Two of them to be precise, as the influence of George North and Harry Mallinder against Wasps was there in black and white for all to see.

But despite North beating eight defenders - his most ever in a Premiership match and the most by any player in round four of the league calendar - and Mallinder topping the carries chart with 19, Wasps still walked away with a 20-15 win.

It was a real smash and grab raid at the Gardens, with breakaway tries from Jimmy Gopperth and Josh Bassett enough to earn the spoils.

And all in all, it was hard to know what to make of it from a Saints perspective as they had so much of the game but were unable to finish off their chances.

For Harry Mallinder, it was another learning experience of which there have been plenty since he shot to prominence with tries against Glasgow and Scarlets last season.

And the young centre knows the old cliche about learning more from the games you lose than the ones you win rings true for him right now.

“That’s definitely the case for me,” Mallinder junior said.

“For instance, at the weekend against Wasps, we left opportunities out there and we’ve been very honest with each other. That’s how you get better and move forward.”

On that note, Mallinder certainly learned plenty from the opening-day defeat to Bath, when he was surprised to learn he was starting at fly half.

The 20-year-old had skippered England Under-20s to World Championship glory at 10 during the summer and was picked ahead of Stephen Myler for the Aviva Premiership curtain raiser.

But things didn’t go his way as he missed a couple of kicks in a disappointing 18-14 defeat, in which opposite number George Ford landed all of the visitors’ points in a first win at Northampton since April 2000.

“I knew during the week (that I would be starting that game),” Mallinder said.

“It was a slight surprise and unfortunately that week we didn’t go so well, but this is a different kettle of fish to what happened (with England Under-20s) in the summer.

“I didn’t get myself too down about it, I learned a lot from that game and, in particular, from George Ford and how he controlled the game.

“I’m still learning.

“It was my breakthrough season last year so I’m learning every week and enjoying it as I go.

“The obvious difference between this and the Under-20s is that you’re playing with and against guys who are very experienced, world class players.

“Every little battle is closer, the physicality is up there and the game’s a lot quicker.”

The game against Wasps was certainly a frantic affair and Saints must now bounce back by beating Exeter at the Gardens this week.

Mallinder is again ready to start at centre in the absence of Luther Burrell, who has been out due to suffering with concussion.

And the talented youngster said: “We’ve got to be positive and we have been positive.

“It was a great performance against Wasps, we created loads of opportunities and unfortunately we didn’t quite finish them.

“It’s going to happen, but Wasps are a very good side and we’ve got to take belief from our performance and take it into the coming weeks.”