Co-captain Lewis Ludlam believes Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership win away at Exeter Chiefs shows that belief is flowing through Northampton Saints’ squad at the moment.
An already challenging trip to the home of the defending league and European champions was made all the more difficult by the torrid wind and the lack of grass on the Sandy Park surface – this was not a day for the free-flowing rugby that has become the hallmark of Chris Boyd’s Northampton side.
Saints responded to the challenge by rolling up their sleeves; 206 tackles – nearly double that of Exeter – were made as part of a determined defensive display.
The momentum behind the squad following a first victory in Sandy Park since 2014 is a far cry from where Saints were before Christmas. Since that agonising last-minute defeat away to Bristol in early December, the men in Black, Green and Gold have gone on to secure four consecutive league victories.
That run of form has seen them jump back into the top four of the league standings, and Ludlam could not hide his pride in the nature of the performance.
“That was huge for us,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty but I’m really happy with the effort of the lads there.
“Staying in the fight, we knew this team would try and wear us down but we stayed in it for long periods of time.”Lewis Ludlam
“With conditions like they were, you get those 50/50 situations where you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a tough place to come down here but that was a really good performance from us.
“We probably weren’t as accurate as we wanted in the second half but we still felt good. You can see on the pitch, we are excited and want to smash people – it’s enjoyable when we have that feeling in the squad.”
Overcoming adversity has been a trait of this Saints squad so far this season. Apart from the frustrating run of results to start the season, Chris Boyd’s men have also had three league and two European clashes cancelled due to COVID.
It would be understandable for the disruption to have had a negative effect on performances and results, but the current run of victories would suggest anything but.
Ludlam insists that Saints have used the frustration caused by the disjointed schedule to drive high standards when they do get on the pitch:
He added: “We want to play. We’re rugby players so we want to play rugby. We want to prove a point; sometimes we’ve been accused of having soft underbellies.
“We want to front up and show people that we’re serious about what we’re doing. Today wasn’t pretty, but the graft and ability to front up was something to be proud of.
“We’re feeling fresh, there’s good feeling around the camp. We’ve got to keep that going, we can’t sit still, we’ve got to continue to build and improve on the performances.
“Who knows where this form can take us.”