Lewis Ludlam is already looking ahead to his next century after making his 100th appearance for Northampton Saints in last Saturday’s thumping 65-26 victory over Newcastle Falcons.
The skipper rounded off his big day with Saints’ tenth and final try of a successful afternoon where they booked their place in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs, and a semi-final at Leicester Tigers.
Ironically, Ludlam hit three figures facing the same club he made his senior debut against for the men in Black, Green and Gold, with just over five-and-a-half years passing since he was blooded in an Anglo-Welsh Cup tie at Kingston Park in November 2016.
It is during the past four seasons under Chris Boyd that he has truly thrived, establishing himself in the first team before earning international honours with England and then being handed the captain’s armband last summer.
Ludlam said: “This is my childhood Club. If you had told me four or five years ago I would have played 100 times for my childhood Club, I’d have said you were crazy.
“Boydy has given me the opportunity to play, so it was about doing the rest of the boys proud, showing them that I want to be here for another 100 games.”Lewis Ludlam
“My family have worked incredibly hard to get me in this position as well, so there was extra motivation, but my main focus was getting the win and put ourselves in the best position to win the Premiership trophy.”
Putting Newcastle to the sword at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens put Saints into the play-offs for the first time since Boyd’s first campaign in charge, in 2018/19.
Standing in their way, after extending Boyd’s tenure, is a Leicester side who came out on top in both East Midlands derbies in the regular season.
However, the upcoming clash at Welford Road does evoke memories of Saints’ famous semi-final triumph against the Tigers at the Gardens in 2014, which Ludlam attended as a fan.
“We knew it was a potential banana skin – they’re a really good side, Newcastle, when they get going and playing with confidence. Everything we spoke about was geared towards winning this game,” he said.
“Now, going away to Leicester in a semi-final, these are the games you dream of. These are the games you watch when you are younger.
“The memories are still so real of seeing Tom Wood score in that bottom left-hand corner, Alex Waller lifting that trophy at Twickenham. That’s the story and we want to make our own story now, so we’re really excited about the challenge of going down there.”
Finishing in the top four rewarded a superb late-season surge that saw Saints win six of their last seven fixtures, all of them including a try bonus point, which allowed them to rise from ninth in the Premiership table.
Ludlam said: “It’s knock-out rugby, it has been for us for months now.
“I think that’s exciting – it shows where this squad is at. We’re really good under pressure, we enjoy that challenge, enjoy being the underdogs, so I think it’s positive.
“We’ve got that experience of knowing that games are do or die, but it’s a completely new challenge, going down to Leicester next week.
“They’ll be fired up, they’ve been fantastic all season, so we’re really looking forward to going down there, probably as underdogs to everyone else.”