King salutes new-look Saints
Northampton attack coach Alex King was thrilled with the efforts of his youthful side as they opened their LV= Cup campaign with victory over Newcastle at Franklin's Gardens.
Saints were without a host of stars away on international duty and had several players on debut, but nevertheless ran out impressive 37-23 winners.
"Fourteen of the 23 guys in today's squad came out of the academy," King said of the new-look line-up.
"The points were scored pretty much by all the academy players. All these guys have grown up together, they live in the same houses, they know each other inside out and they're mates."
Tries from Tom Collins (two), Teimana Harrison, Mike Haywood and Howard Packman secured the win for Northampton, while fly-half Will Hooley contributed two penalties and three conversions.
Newcastle posted tries through Tom Catterick and substitute Juan Pablo Socino, with the flawless kicking of Rory Clegg keeping the Falcons in the contest.
King reserved special praise for Saints stalwarts Christian Day and Phil Dowson, who led their younger team-mates to an emphatic triumph.
"You need guys like them," King said. "You can't just throw 23 kids out there and hope their energy and enthusiasm will get them through."
Northampton have competed in four finals in this competition in the last six years and have the added incentive of hosting this season's final, but King was refusing to get carried away.
"We're a long way off that," he said of the March showpiece.
"The Scarlets next week will be a completely different test. It'll be fantastic for our guys to compete against a team that are doing well in the Champions Cup. They beat Leicester two weeks ago. We need to get better to go down there to get the win.
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards, meanwhile, lamented his side's indiscipline after taking a 7-0 lead early in the contest.
The Falcons crashed to their first defeat in five games after an unbeaten run of four wins in all competitions, with Alesana Tuilagi's first-half dismissal proving costly as the hosts scored two tries in his absence.
"The impact of a yellow card these days is quite significant," Richards said on Tuilagi's dismissal.
"We said at half-time that the things that were hurting us were down to us to rectify. The first 10 minutes of any game is critical in terms of setting the tone with the referee, and I thought we gave too many penalties away in that period."