Club co-captain Alex Waller believes Northampton Saints showed their character at the end of Saturday’s nail-biting Gallagher Premiership victory over Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.
Saints took advantage of two first-half yellow cards for the hosts to open up a 22-point half-time lead. Three scores came in that first 40 minutes through Shaun Adendorff (his third try in two weekends), Sam Matavesi and Taqele Naiyaravoro – the latter two as part of a ruthless period when Wasps were down to 13 men.
Some second-half indiscretion of their own ensured that Chris Boyd’s side had to fight off a late Wasps comeback, but the Men in Black, Green and Gold ultimately showed enough defensive determination to take four valuable league points back to Franklin’s Gardens.
Despite the second-half scare, Waller was satisfied both with the win and the progression of the side, with the loosehead prop hoping Saints have turned a corner when it comes to seeing out tight games.
“A win’s a win; away from home, two on the bounce on the road, we’re very pleased with that,” he said.
“There are plenty of things to work on, particularly in that second half when it comes to keeping the pressure on. But six months ago we’d probably have lost that, so there’s definitely improvement there in terms of seeing out games.
“Coming up with those big plays both individually and as a team is a really good sign of where we’re at.
“I think we’ve turned the corner now and hopefully we can climb up the table one game at a time, and still be towards the top end at the end of the season.”Alex Waller
Two of Saints’ scores came from dominant lineout mauls, and the set-piece functioned particularly well all game.
Tighthead prop Paul Hill was called into a longer stint than usual when replacement Owen Franks was forced off not long after entering the fray. Despite the potential fatigue from staying on that long, Hill was instrumental in winning a series of late scrum penalties that stalled the Wasps comeback.
Waller added: “The maul probably set the tone for us when they had their second man sin-binned. They are the opportunities you look for in these sorts of games so when they come you’ve got to take them.
“The set-piece is something we’ve worked hard on. Hilly has put a lot of time and effort into improving his game and he’s playing some really good rugby at the moment. He’s in really good form.
“He came off the pitch and was expecting to put his feet up but obviously Franksy picked up his injury. He’s playing really well and I’m happy for him.
“There’s good chemistry in the front row at the moment, the whole unit is working well and hopefully that’s showing well on the pitch. It’s a pleasure to play with him.
“As for the pack in general, maybe in seasons gone by we’ve been seen as a bit of a ‘ball in, ball out’ group, but that’s changed now – we are fronting up against some really good teams.”
Saturday marked Waller’s 201st Premiership appearance for the Club (and 287th overall). Number 200 in the league came last week at Gloucester, though Waller admits he knew nothing of the milestone until after the game.
“It’s a privilege every time I pull on the shirt and play for the Club,” he said. “I’ve been here a while now, but I wasn’t even aware that last week was 200 in the league.
“I got into the changing room after and my phone was going off a bit with messages about the milestone. It’s an honour to pull on the shirt and I’m looking forward to doing it many more times.”