Teimana Harrison could not hide his delight to be back out on the pitch and contributing to a Northampton Saints win following Saturday’s nail-biting finale at home to Sale Sharks.
Starting in a Black, Green and Gold jersey for the first time since Boxing Day, Harrison’s first-half try and 12 points from the boot of James Grayson were crucial to holding the visitors at bay in a 17-14 victory.
Harrison was one of several Saints who set the tone on the defensive side of the ball; his 15 tackles on the day was bettered only by the effort of fellow back-row Tom Wood, who had 17.
After prevailing to secure four points that keeps Northampton in touch with the Gallagher Premiership’s top four, the England back-row believes the result proves that the hard graft being done with defence coach Ian Vass is paying off.
“It feels really good to be back at the Gardens,” he said. “It’s good to be back on the field after a spell out for me personally which has been disappointing. It’s nice to be back out there with the boys and even better to get the win.
“It’s been a frustrating last couple of weeks; we’ve just been missing a few bits of detail. There were still bits missing today, but to show up and put the guts in at the end and come away with the result, that’s a massive stepping stone for us and we’ll use it to bounce into Bristol next week.
“Defence has been a massive work on for us, trying to keep teams out.
“We know we can score points and where we’ve lacked a little bit in the past is our D, so there’s been a massive focus on that for the last couple of months.”Teimana Harrison
“You can see that working and the boys really buying into the system – we’re getting the results out of it.
“Sale are a very physical team. We knew our D was going to have to be on point, we knew we had to two man chop them then get our rewards at the breakdown. A few times we did that and it came off.
“It’s one of those tough ones where anything could have happened and they were only a couple of points away. To hold them out there at the end is massively character building.
“It shows the good work that Vassy has been putting in with us and the reaction from the boys.”
What made Harrison’s return performance all the more impressive was the duration. The plan had been to manage Harrison’s minutes against Sale to build his match fitness back up again.
However, when Lewis Ludlam went down with a nasty knock to the head in the second half, Harrison was forced to dig deep and pull out an unexpected 80-minute shift.
The back row added: “Boydy [Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd] said to me during the week that they were going to start me so they could control my minutes. If I go down in the first half, it’s not a bad thing since they can bring someone else on.
“I thought I’d have a nice 40 minutes but then I saw Luds go off. When I saw Api [Ratuniyarawa] coming on I thought that was my time, but it was Moony [Alex Moon] who went off.
“It was tough on the lungs but I’m just enjoying being back out there. It’s been a frustrating season for me really, plagued with injuries.
“I’m glad my body held up and am enjoying being back out there.”