First Gardens appearance will live long in the memory for Saints forward Graham

Sam Graham says he will remember his first appearance as a Saints player at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens 'for a long time'.
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The flanker was handed his first start at the Gardens having joined the black, green and gold from Doncaster Knights during the summer.

Graham, who was the skipper at Doncaster, had previously appeared off the bench in Gallagher Premiership matches at Sale, Harlequins and Bath, while starting the Premiership Rugby Cup encounter at London Irish.

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But he hadn't been given a run-out at the Gardens - until Saturday.

Sam GrahamSam Graham
Sam Graham

Saints eventually emerged 45-31 winners against Bristol Bears, though Graham did see his day end a minute early as he was shown a yellow card.

Nevertheless, that did little to spoil his mood as he now goes in search of more Saints starts, at the Gardens and beyond.

"It's been a special couple of weeks for me and every opportunity I get to wear the shirt is awesome," said Graham, who is a former Bristol player.

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"This was my first one in black, green and gold so I'll remember that for a long time.

"This place will be unbelievably special (when Exeter Chiefs come calling) on Friday night under the lights and we roll on to this week."

Saints recovered from going 7-0 down early on against Bristol as they flew into a 31-7 lead before the break.

But the Bears kept battling, making things interesting during the second half before Saints put the seal on their bonus-point win.

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"It's great for us as players to get the opportunity to play in that, and it's great for the fans to watch because we put on a bit of a spectacle in that first half," Graham said.

"Sadly we didn't quite carry it through to the second half, but there's lots of positives in there.

"We've got big ambitions as a club and if we're honest with ourselves, that performance isn't good enough to get us to where we want to go.

"In patches, it definitely was because we showed so much of what we've worked on and things we haven't quite got right in previous weeks, we did.

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"But in other areas we sort of dropped away. It was a mark of the pressure we're putting on ourselves and when a team is behind, they're going to start playing.

"Bristol are a team that play and want to play, similar to us. When we start giving them a bit of momentum, we're on the back foot and putting pressure on ourselves. We cracked a little bit.

"But there was a lot of character shown to score a try to put us back on top and relieve a bit of pressure.

"We showed a lot of heart to see it out and it was a really encouraging performance overall."