Competition for places pushes Saints ace Hinkley to new heights

Aaron Hinkley was superb for the Saints against Bristol

The flanker seemed to be all over the pitch as he claimed the applause for a superb performance against Bristol Bears.

Hinkley looked excited from the start, making contact at every opportunity.

And he also showed his skill as the game went on, with a backdoor offload, which led to a try from James Grayson, one of the highlights of the game.

Hinkley had found his groove and garnered attention before being left out of the matchday squad against Bath last weekend.

But he was back in shirt seven against Bristol, and he showed he wasn’t planning on giving it up again anytime soon.

“So far this season the story has been either I drop out or I start,” Hinkley said.

“It’s so competitive in those four, five, six, seven, eight, 19, 20 that whoever raises their hand one week will play the next.

“It’s good to have such healthy competition and it pushes us all back to be better.

“It’s definitely the most competitive team I’ve been on.”

And if you thought Hinkley was fired up against Bristol, imagine how he’ll be when he takes on former club Exeter Chiefs at the Gardens on Friday night.

The 23-year-old joined Exeter from Gloucester in 2020 but was unable to secure a regular starting spot at Sandy Park.

Hinkley was finally put on trial at Saints towards the end of last season, and he has impressed ever since, deservedly earning a permanent contract in black, green and gold.

“I have a point to prove, but at the same time it’s about staying in the system, doing what I’m doing and not getting too excited,” Hinkley said ahead of the Exeter clash.

“It’s just another game at the end of the day, but there will be that bit more where I want to do a bit better and push a bit harder.

“But it will only be a matter of 0.5% because every game is flat out and I want to play well in every game.”

Hinkley certainly played well on Saturday, earning praise from Saints boss Phil Dowson, who partly explained why the flanker missed out on Bath.

“I tried leashing him, and it was time to release the dogs,” Dowson said.

“He was excellent, his work rate is second to none and he has a huge desire to succeed.

“You see his quality on the pitch in terms of defensive effort, in terms of offloading for the score in the second half – it was absolutely brilliant.

“I was really happy for Aaron and he’s a quality player.”

Hinkley’s strong performance was part of a big Saints effort as they bounced back from defeat at Bath with a well-deserved Gallagher Premiership victory.

Saints were flying after scoring four tries in 18 minutes in the first half, but Bristol came back into the game in the second half, pulling off a comeback of sorts before being snuffed out by Grayson’s scoreline.

“It was a very open game, definitely a two-half game because they ran it so well in the second half,” Hinkley said.

“We said we needed to figure out why this was happening, why we were getting such good leads against teams and why we weren’t keeping them away long enough.

“We don’t do 80-minute performances, and that’s Monday’s work, but we got five points, so we can’t argue.

“We know that when we get our hands on the ball, we’re the best attacking team in the league and we can score tries from anywhere.

“It’s about putting ourselves in the right areas to play and taking care of the ball, doing all the little things right so that we can do really well.

“Our brand of rugby is about keeping the ball alive and we have a knack for scoring tries down the length of the pitch, which is what we did.

“We knew Bristol wanted to play from everywhere and our plan was to stifle that, which we did very well in the first half, but in the second half they got the better of us.”

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