Sam Vesty was full of praise for his Northampton Saints side’s attack, as his side beat Harlequins 36-33 on Friday night in front of a bumper crowd at cinch Stadium at Franklins Gardens.
Ten tries were scored in all, with the crucial score for the men in Black Green and Gold coming five minutes from time when Ollie Sleightholme scored his second of the match on his first start for the Club since February.
And though the head coach acknowledged that Saints still have plenty to work on, Vesty was pleased with the progress Northampton showed in attack particularly – with scores from Lewis Ludlam, Alex Coles and Alex Mitchell pairing with Sleightholme’s brace to give Saints their third try bonus-point of the season.
“I thought it was a cracking game.” Vesty said. “If you came to watch that game, I think you’d be very happy with what you’ve seen.
“I thought we played well, and credit to Harlequins, they are a difficult side to put away and they just kept going. They have got a great attack and they put us under a lot of pressure and managed to make it very close at the end.
“I was really pleased with our attack tonight; the forwards did a great job of getting some momentum onto the ball.”Sam Vesty, Head Coach
“It didn’t all go our way, with the ball hitting the floor too many times and we forced a few things, but what we were trying to do, I was happy with. That’s what we want to see, and we can get better at the other bits. We can make those passes stick and not do certain things, but overall, I was happy with the intent showed to attack.
“We forced a few things that didn’t need forcing, but as soon as we stopped doing that, we managed to get across the line. This is what the sport is needing. There is no way you can look at this and talk about some of the criticisms that are going around rugby at the moment.
“It was a positive game of rugby, played by two good teams, going absolutely hammer and tongs at each other and I reckon everyone in the stadium had a great time.”
Sleightholme – who spent nine months on the sidelines before making his return from injury against Exeter Chiefs two weeks ago – announced his return to Saints’ starting line-up in some style, crossing the whitewash twice in front of the lights on Friday.
And Vesty commended the 23-year-old winger, applauding his determination against Harlequins as much as his resilience in his journey back to full fitness.
“I thought Ollie was outstanding,” said Vesty. “A couple of times where we were in trouble, and he just turned up out of nowhere. He was excellent on both sides of the ball, and I am just happy for him because it’s been a hard journey to come back, and he has had to be patient. But good things come to those who wait, and he did a good job tonight.”
Vesty was also full of praise for George Furbank – who stepped into the No. 10 shirt for the injured Fin Smith, masterminding Saints’ attack, kicking 11 of Northampton’s points from the tee and claiming the Player of the Match award for his efforts.
Vesty said: “George was incredible. He hasn’t played much at fly half for us, so to step up, and keep our game going forward was brilliant. His run and kick decisions were excellent, and his execution was really good, and he got stuck in defensively as well. That first hit on Andre’ Esterhuizen sets the tone and says how much do you want it, because I want it this much.”
The big matches keep coming thick and fast for Saints, with a trip to the StoneX stadium to face reigning champions Saracens on the cards for this weekend (Saturday 2 December, kick-off: 4.30pm).