Making his first return to play in a Saints shirt this season, James Craig put in a man-of-the-match performance yesterday as Saints held on to take the win over Gloucester Rugby and make it two from two in the Anglo-Welsh Cup opening rounds.
“It was a bit nervy those last five minutes,” Craig told SaintsTV after the game.
“I got a bit of a telling off from Nobby that I’d tapped the ball back on that last try there but I promised him I didn’t touch it and their guy knocked it forward but it’s just one of those things and it made for a bit of a nervy finish. It was a bit closer than it should have been I think.”
Saints’ set-piece was the driving force as they stormed to a 16-point lead on the 60-minute mark and Craig, who caused havoc at the Gloucester lineout, said it was good to see their hard-working in analysis in the week paying off on the field.
“We obviously do out analysis so it’s really nice when it pays off to that extent which it very, very rarely does.
“That was, not lucky, but just one of those days where everything seemed to come my way.
“We put the work in during the week, we analysed, different guys analyse every week, and it’s just nice when that pays off.
“I think in those conditions in particular it’s important that you control the game and having such a strangle-hold of being able to win quality ball in our scrum and our line-out and set our mauls up was great.
“Being able to pressure their and if they won the ball make them have messy ball, in those conditions it makes it very hard to control the game when you’re constantly on the back foot and you can’t launch those first two quick phases how you want to.”
Craig said that returning to playing after so long out and making the full 80 minutes was tough but something he hopes to improve on in the coming weeks.
“I felt like I played ok. I was maybe struggling a little bit after only having two, three weeks back to training which after five or six weeks of not doing anything has been pretty difficult but I’ll keep working on that during the week and hopefully I’ll get to play at the weekend as well.”
Coming back into the Aviva Premiership, Craig hopes that Saints can hold onto the energy the younger players have brought to the team and create more competition for the shirt as the more senior players step back into the fold.
“The difference these last few weeks has been that there’s been a really great energy about the place with the young lads obviously getting the opportunity that brings a lot of energy to training and into the squad.
“Hopefully a few of those guys will get a shot against Worcester, Newcastle and Leicester as well. They’re three big games for us going forward and I think it’s important we set ourselves a target as a group without the Internationals that we leave things in a better place than when those guys left.”