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At home with the Sleightholmes – Ollie shows Dad he’s up to speed at Northampton Saints

(Photo: RedHatPhoto.com)

Former Northampton flyer Jon Sleightholme had long realised his son Ollie might just have the edge on him for speed. But it came home last summer in brutal fashion before the Commonwealth Youth Games Sevens in the Bahamas.

Jon explains: “Ollie hadn’t played for a while so I suggested we go to the park for some speed and endurance training. Good idea? No! He left me for dead.”

Jon was in considerably more comfort watching from the stand at Franklin’s Gardens last Saturday as Ollie rocketed into the history books as the first player born in the Noughties to score a Premiership try.

Academy wing ace Ollie, who was born on 13 April, 2000, made an instant impact on his top-flight debut in the 36-17 victory over Wasps when he raced on to Luther Burrell’s pass to score after emerging as a 70th minute replacement for Andrew Kellaway.

It ensured Northampton’s Sleightholmes entered a select group of father and son duos to have scored Premiership tries, joining Andy and Owen Farrell (Saracens), Jim and Harry Mallinder (Northampton) and George and Gary Graham (Newcastle).

Former England, Saints and Bath wing Jon said: “It was a bit surreal. To come on like that and score with his first touch within 15 seconds… well, you couldn’t write the script.

“We were delighted because he works really hard and is very diligent in his game debriefs and looking for areas where he can improve. The coaches have been impressed with his attention to detail and he’s done ever so well with Saints so far.”

Winging in: Jon Sleightholme scores for England against Ireland in 1997 (photo: Getty Images)

Jon, now 46, was no slouch in his day, clocking 10.89 for the 100m as an 18-year-old. “Mind you Darren Campbell was a contemporary and was doing 10.2 without a warm-up!”

He was still rapid enough to land ten tries in 50 starts for Northampton and four more in 12 appearances for England.

Ollie is part of a squadron of Saints academy starlets making an impact this season, with fly-half James Grayson (20), No.9 Alex Mitchell (21), centre Fraser Dingwall (19), full-back George Furbank (22), lock Alex Moon (22) and prop Ehren Painter (20) also impressing.

Jon added: “It’s testament to a great academy process at Saints. There’s been a feeling that young lads haven’t had an opportunity in past years, but clubs like Exeter have shown how investment in the academy programme reaps big benefits.

“Now lads have come through who are not only great players but passionate about the club. If you’ve been brought up in that environment, it gives you an edge because you are a close-knit bunch.

“There’s a group of lads at Saints now who’ve been together for many years and been successful in the Wanderers. Full credit to Chris Boyd for giving them chances.”

The first player born in 2000 to play top-flight rugby was Exeter No.9 Sam Maunder (born March 22), who debuted against Sale in September.

NEALE HARVEY

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