Ollie Sleightholme announced his return to Northampton Saints’ starting line-up in fine form, scoring two tries on Friday night in the 36-33 win over Harlequins.
Before the Round 7 clash in the Gallagher Premiership, the winger had not started a league match for Saints since Northampton faced Leicester Tigers back in January.
Ten months on and Sleightholme’s two scores book-ended a Saints performance that saw the men in Black, Green and Gold score five tries in all, leaving Saints just three points behind second-place Saracens in the Premiership table.
“I haven’t had much to do coming off the bench in the last two games, so being on for the full 80 allowed me to get into the game and do what I can do,” said Sleightholme.
“I just loved being out there with the lads and it’s what I love to do.
“It makes the wait worthwhile. All the time I spent in the gym, all the time I spent with the strength and conditioning coaches and physios, it makes it all worth it.”Ollie Sleightholme
“When you can come back out here in front of a home crowd on a Friday night, it’s brilliant.
“It was a lung buster. I can feel every part of my body is hurting but that’s what you get after not playing rugby for nine months.
“For a spectator, it was a good game to watch, but it was scrappy and [Quins] made it difficult. We said early in the week, that you need to be alive for everything, as they will attack from anywhere, and take things quick.
“The win makes the hard work and nine months out worthwhile. Being able to put a performance like that on a good team like Quins are and show what we can do.
“You are always looking for something to get you into the game and to score a try is the number one way of doing that.”
Friday night’s match saw the largest attendance at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens this term, and Sleightholme commended the support from the stands, praising the raucous energy of the crowd.
He said: “Friday night games at the Gardens just can’t be beaten anywhere. It can’t be beaten anywhere in the Gallagher Premiership or in Europe.
“At the start of the game, George Furbank was trying to tell me something, and I had no idea what he was saying as I couldn’t hear him over the crowd. So, it is such a buzz, when you have that support.”
And there’s no time to rest for the men in Black, Green and Gold as they travel to reigning champions Saracens on Saturday (2 December, kick-off: 4.30pm) for Round 8 of the Gallagher Premiership.