Director of Rugby Chris Boyd was pleased to see his charges knuckle down to end a two-game losing streak as Northampton Saints produced a 30-25 victory over Wasps in front of an almost 4,000 strong crowd at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.
On more than one occasion this season, Saints have found themselves in a winning position only for the result to slip away in the closing stages, but this time a Tom Wood try plus a crucial Emmanuel Iyogun breakdown penalty in the game's final seconds were enough to stall a late Wasps comeback.
There were a number of impressive performances in Black, Green and Gold as supporters were welcomed back to the Gardens, but Boyd was quick to highlight the game management of his half-backs who often pinned Wasps inside their own territory with an astute kicking game.
“It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means,” said Boyd.
“But I think especially with the way we managed the last little bit, it would have been a very bitter pill to swallow if they had snuck home. In the end we did enough.
“There’s been plenty of disappointment in the last few weeks so we had a lot of desire.”Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd
“I thought Tom James had his best game for us. We still overplayed at times in the back end of the first half particularly but we settled down and started to manage that. Tom had a pretty decent shift.”
Another player who came in for praise was the returning Courtney Lawes. Playing in a Saints jersey for the first time since December, the British and Irish Lion showed no rust in a typically destructive performance, securing five turnovers while also starting the break that led to a penalty try with a silky offload.
Boyd said: “It’s a measure of the man. He hasn’t played since Christmas and it’s now nearly June so it’s been a near six month lay off.
“He’s been very focused around his return to play, this game was the one that was always targeted from way back when the medical people had gone into their crystal ball and worked out when he’d be back.
“To come back and play 70 odd minutes, get five turnovers and get through that amount of work off the bat of not playing is just a testament to his mental attitude and also his physical resilience.”
And nothing could dampen the sense of occasion surrounding the return of thousands of Saints supporters to a picturesque Franklin’s Gardens.
“It’s just such a pleasure,” said Boyd. “The ground’s like playing on a carpet, it’s a wonderful surface to play on.
“The sun was out – that yellow thing in the sky we hadn’t seen in a while – it was warm and on top of that to have close to 4,000 people in the house making noise again, it was just a different occasion.
“It reminded you of how much fun it is to come to the Gardens when it’s rocking and I can’t wait until we get a really get back in here and really get stuck back into it.
“I’ve just missed it so much.”