Staying in the fight was key to Northampton Saints emerging victorious in the East Midlands derby against Leicester Tigers, according to stand-in captain George Furbank.
Furbank, who skippered the side in the absence of Lewis Ludlam and Fraser Dingwall, played a key role in the 19-18 triumph at Welford Road by kicking 14 points from fly-half, with his conversion of Ollie Sleightholme’s try ultimately proving decisive.
Saints twice had to come from behind at the home of their greatest rivals, who had beaten them in the previous four derby matches.
Once in front, some resolute and disciplined defence in the face of heavy Leicester pressure ensured they now officially have an away win in the Gallagher Premiership this season, after their previous victory on their travels, at Wasps, was scrubbed.
Furbank said: “It’s very special. I think the way we went about it as well makes it even more special.
“It was a fight. We spoke about it, saying it was going to be a fight, coming here and we stuck in that fight for 80 minutes, and that is ultimately what bought the win.”George Furbank
“There was a lot of kick chase, a lot of back-and-forward and they are obviously big physical men, so we did really well to halt their momentum and they went to the boot quite a lot.
“We didn’t have much off the back of that, so we had to go back to the boot as well.
“I thought our back three were outstanding under the high ball – Rambo [James Ramm] and Skose [Courtnall Skosan] got peppered all day and did a really good job, and TJ [Tom James] put his kicks on the money the majority of the time. That allowed us to stay in that game.”
Like most other teams in the Gallagher Premiership in the latest round of fixtures, Saints found themselves depleted by players being away on international duty with England ahead of the Six Nations.
Suspensions to Dingwall and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and injury to Courtney Lawes also did not help their cause ahead of what is always one of their biggest fixtures of the season.
He said: “It would have been a first derby for a few of the boys and we spoke about just coming together.
“We knew we were missing a few big characters and a few leaders.
“We spoke about coming together and everyone doing their own job, sticking to our system, sticking on our terms and the boys did an outstanding job.
“You go through the whole 15 and everyone has stuck to their process and put in one hell of a shift.”
Putting their previously poor away record behind them is something that will hopefully hold Saints in good stead in their attempts to reach the Premiership semi-finals for the second season running.
The man-of-the-match performance of Ramm after his third-minute yellow card was just one example of the resilience they displayed.
“We’ve been pretty poor away from home for a lot of the season and Dows said we need to be in games at half-time away from home,” Furbank said.
“There have been too many times where we’ve gone away and we’re 20 points down at half-time, and you’re always chasing it from there.
“We spoke about being in that game come half-time and I thought we managed that reasonably well.
“We were in it at half-time and from there we just pushed on, we won some of those kick battles that took us into good areas and took our opportunities when they came.”