David Ribbans believes that the return of Saints supporters to Franklin's Gardens gave Northampton the extra boost they needed to hold off a late Wasps fightback and come out on the right side of a tight 30-25 scoreline on Saturday.
Time and again the visitors levelled after Saints had edged out in front in what would be a back and forth match; but ultimately a timely Tom Wood score, coupled with a first-half Sam Matavesi effort, a penalty try and 13 points from Dan Biggar's boot, proved enough to keep Chris Boyd's men ahead when the final whistle blew.
And man-of-the-match Ribbans said that the extra energy from the crowd was a key factor to holding onto the victory, one which he hopes can lead to some momentum in the closing rounds of the season.
“I know we’re used to a lot more people here but 4,000 felt so good after the last year with no one in,” Ribbans said.
“It was fantastic – it definitely helped us at the end there when we were making things hard for ourselves. It was so good to have a portion of the people back.
“Without crowds you’re driving your own energy the whole time. The crowd just brings that extra buzz, it’s quite hard to explain but it was fantastic.
“We’ve got the best supporters in the country and they came out in full voice today, even when things weren’t going well.”David Ribbans
“They made a massive difference. Hopefully we can get a few more hundred in to fill it up even more [next week against Exeter]. I can’t wait to run out in front of everyone again.”
Today was a reminder of why we love the game.— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) May 29, 2021
From Mr 300 and everyone at Saints, thank you for your support, not only this afternoon, but through what has been one of the most challenging times in our Club's history 🙏
Here's to brighter days to come 🖤💚💛 pic.twitter.com/KcYVCC2SAl
With the prospect of a semi-final spot now gone as Harlequins sealed fourth place yesterday, Ribbans – while delighted with Saints' victory over Wasps – was quick to admit that missing out on the knockout stages is not a position that Saints want to grow accustomed to.
“We've made it pretty hard for ourselves in the last couple of months, so it was really important to get the result after the last few weeks,” Ribbans admitted.
“The result was more important than the overall performance for squad morale and hopefully we can now build on something. We know the top four is out of reach but we are still determined to end the season well.
“I’ll be brutally honest, I think the year has been pretty disappointing. Not getting top four is not acceptable for Saints if we’re honest, nor is getting knocked out of Europe early.
“As a team it’s been disappointing because we expect to be top four if not higher. Chris Boyd doesn’t see us as a team that sits 5th in the league and nor do we, as players.”
But despite all that, Saturday's win over Wasps still provided lots to be celebrated in not only the return of Saints supporters to the stands for the first time in 2021, but two huge Club milestones – with Alex Waller becoming only the 24th player to notch up a massive 300 appearances for Northampton, and Api Ratuniyarawa also celebrating a century of games in Black, Green and Gold.
And Ribbans was quick to praise his teammates on their impressive achievements in the Saints jersey.
“I can’t get my head around Alex Waller playing 300 games for Saints” said Ribbans. “A local lad who came through the Saints Academy to play 300 games is unbelievable. Captaining the team now as well, it’s honestly an honour to be behind him.
“Big T (Taqele Naiyaravoro) also spoke before the game when he presented Api with his jersey. He spoke about how not many Fijian people have played 100 games in Europe so it’s a massive achievement for him.
“They’re massive players in the squad and they deserve huge congratulations.”