Saints wing Tom Collins believes that having to grind out a hard-earned 31-26 preseason victory over Ospreys on Friday evening will stand his Northampton teammates in good stead heading into their Gallagher Premiership opener next weekend.
The 27-year-old flyer scored two tries to help the men in Black, Green and Gold edge out the Welsh region in a lively clash at Franklin’s Gardens, with Lewis Ludlam, Tom Litchfield and Alex Mitchell also crossing the whitewash for the hosts.
Collins – who also grabbed a 70-metre score in Saints’ other preseason win at Bedford – thought he had a hat-trick in the second half against Ospreys, only for the try to be chalked off for a forward pass in the build-up.
Northampton had to stave off a late push from the visitors after they staged second-half comeback, and with Saints’ league campaign getting underway against Gloucester this week, Collins insists the nail-biting finish was just what his side needed.
“I really enjoyed being out there, it was a tough game and the performance from us was a bit of a mixed bag,” said Collins.
“I thought we did some basics very, very well at the beginning, but then tailed off in the second half – especially in that first ten minutes, which is where we’ve got to be strong.
“It’s a tough test next week against Gloucester, but we’ve had a good preseason and hopefully we can build on that.
“You want to have a test in preseason. You don’t want to be winning games 40-0, it’s pointless and we get nothing out of it.”Tom Collins
“On Friday, the boys showed character. Those are the type of games that we probably would have lost not that long ago – tight games. To get the win, although it wasn’t our best performance, is good for us.”
Friday’s match marked the return of an unrestricted crowd to Franklin’s Gardens for the first time since the Coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.
Thousands flooded through the gates for the preseason match, and Collins admitted having the stands packed with supporters once again will make the world of difference for Saints this term.
He said: “It’s nice to be back out there and in front of the supporters. It makes a hell of a lot of difference for the boys playing.
“The difference is crazy. I’ve been here for several years now and I’ve seen everything from first team rugby to Wanderers rugby.
“Playing here in an empty ground is ridiculous. You don’t really know what to do with yourself, whereas when you’ve got this crowd behind your back it’s great and probably what got us over the line against Ospreys.”