It was a day full of positives for two of Northampton Saints’ young fullbacks during the breathless 46-35 victory at Saracens in the Premiership Rugby Cup on Saturday.
Two of Saints’ seven tries at the StoneX Stadium went the way of replacement fullback George Hendy as he made it four tries in three Cup outings this season.
And his feat was made all the more impressive by the fact that the 19-year-old – who recently returned from international duty with England Under-20s – was only on the field for 23 minutes.
Hendy said: “I enjoyed it. I just got the call to come onto the pitch and I went out there after being told to express myself and just enjoy it.
“Holes started to open up and I just started to take the chances that were there.”
Within two minutes of his arrival, Hendy intercepted a loose ball off Saracens’ wing Rotimi Segun to race in down the right and his second score arguably surpassed the first as he burst clear from his own half straight from a restart.
“That [his first try] was my first touch,” Hendy said. “I was pretty lucky there, but I was just at the right place at the right time and I was lucky to finish it.
“The first one was a bit of a ‘right place, right time’ situation, but the second one, I definitely enjoyed that one. I kind of just kept going.
“It was tiring, there was lots of running, but once you get that first touch and first tackle, you just get a feel for the game.”George Hendy
On the prolific start to his Saints career, Hendy added: “I’m pretty happy with that – can’t complain too much but tries are just part of the package of playing with the rest of the team.
“As long I play well and the team gets the win at the end of the day, I’m not too fussed who crosses the line.”
Hendy replaced Tommy Freeman at Saracens who, even at 21 years old, was a relative veteran in Saints’ young side. The fullback made his welcome return from injury on Saturday after eight weeks out with a hamstring problem picked up on England duty.
And it didn’t take long for the youngster to get back into the groove in what was an incredibly open game and Freeman is hoping we can now look forward to seeing plenty more of his running threat in the remainder of the campaign.
Freeman said: “The last eight weeks have been a bit of a roller-coaster for me.
“Obviously, I went into [England] camp and I then had a funeral not long ago – I had a friend passing away, which obviously affected me, but it’s just been awesome getting out there and doing the thing I love.
“As you saw, George Hendy went out there and carved it up. He really showed us his pace and what he’s all about, which is really good to see.”
Freeman’s two-month lay-off was a rare setback in what has been a rapid rise, with the fullback enjoying first-team rugby before his superb form led to him being called up by England for the Autumn Nations Series and the Six Nations.
On how he handled his spell on the sidelines, Freeman said: “It is difficult. I obviously had a good run last year, a good run of games which was really nice to get used to.
“Suddenly being taken away from that and having little niggle after niggle – they weren’t too serious injuries, but just having those little setbacks aren’t ideal and you just want to be out there running with the boys.
“It’s frustrating, but I’m happy to be back and the body’s feeling good.”