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Review: Wood hails total squad effort in Cardiff

After another Classic Match streaming last night, Tom Vickers puts together his review from an historic night in Cardiff in 2014, which saw Northampton Saints lift the Challenge Cup after beating Bath Rugby 30-16...

The assembled media were happy with their lot when Tom Wood suddenly extended the post-Challenge Cup final press conference with an urge to make a point.

“Could I just say, I’d like to credit the wider squad with tonight’s effort,” said Wood. “Guys have played in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of this competition, people like Ben Nutley, James Craig, Ethan Waller...too many names to mention.

“It’s not just about the 15 or 23 in this game, it’s about the whole squad, hence why we got them on the pitch at the end.

“I’m really proud of the depth of our squad, the guys who have stepped up and those who have taken selection on the chin and missed out. I’d like to credit them for it.”

It was yet another measure of Wood’s class as a captain as he ensured everyone who had played their part in the Challenge Cup triumph was given recognition.

And he was right to do so because Saints’ European triumph wasn’t just forged in Cardiff on Friday night.

It was created with Dublin defiance, Swansea strength, Salford skill and plenty of other ingredients along the way.

Just as reaching the LV= Cup Final had been a sizeable squad effort, this was too.

And at the denouement of this European campaign, that depth told as Bath were blown away in a second half that will have left them shell-shocked.

Things looked to be going so well for the men in blue, black and white, but when things began to go wrong, they couldn’t turn the tide.

This is where Saints have grown as a team during the past few years. They now know how to pull games out of the fire.

Just as they did against Leicester a week earlier, they retained belief and upped the tempo, leaving the opposition in their slipstream.

Stephen Myler once again played a mammoth role in a recovery, this time from 13-6 down at the break.

He may not get the plaudits George Ford receives, but he once again showed he is the man for the crucial moments.

He landed seven of his eight kicks, missing just once – a late conversion when the game was already won – to help his team over the line.

It was the story of his season and even drew praise from the Bath faithful with one inebriated member of the crowd telling his mate there was no chance, in more slightly more colourful language, that Myler would miss before the fly-half slotted his sixth penalty of the game.

Myler’s 20 points helped Saints secure the silverware, but so did the forward pack’s immense power in this final.

So did Kahn Fotuali’i’s super-show in the semi-final success against Harlequins, which included a fine score from Tom Collins.

So did Ben Nutley’s two-try heroics and Ethan Waller’s enormous display on a soggy night at Sale back in April.

So did George Pisi’s impressive score against Castres at Franklin’s Gardens.

So did George North’s brilliant burst against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

So did Jamie Elliott’s breakaway score following the most gargantuan of defensive performances at the Aviva Stadium.

So you see, the credits list for this particular success story is as long as Courtney Lawes’ legs. Wood was right: this was about everyone. And how everyone enjoyed it when that trophy was hoisted high into the Cardiff sky.

Now it’s time for the ultimate squad effort – the Premiership season – to end in a similarly happy fashion for this special Saints group.

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