Northampton Saints 41 Glasgow Warriors 15: Tom Vickers' review
The buzz was back at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night as Chris Boyd's first game at the ground ended with a comfortable win.
At times last season, it felt like the supporters, and the team, were going through the motions on home turf.For months, most at the club just wanted the campaign to end as the optimism created in the formative weeks of the season dissipated fast.But with the arrival of former Hurricanes boss Boyd and a plethora of fresh faces in the playing squad, fans have reasons other than loyalty to venture to the Gardens.There is palpable excitement at what can be achieved by Northampton, not necessarily immediately but in the not too distant future.
Boyd is surrounded by a fresh, hungry coaching staff, and a squad to match.
And it was apt that one of the summer signings, James Haskell, started the scoring on Friday night.Though pre-season victories mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing like winning to lift the spirits before the serious stuff begins next Saturday.A Gallagher Premiership opener against Gloucester at Kingsholm will be a far tougher test than anything Saints have encountered during their build-up to the big kick-off.Wins against Ospreys, Dragons and Glasgow have been satisfying, but they have only served to whet the appetite for meaningful Premiership points.Saints have gone through pre-season with win after win, but they have done that before and not enjoyed strong campaigns.Boyd was quick to point out that their Premiership tally is still at zero as focus quickly switched to Kingsholm.But he will have been happy with some of the improvements he has seen during the friendly fixtures.Firstly, he has learned that Saints have the character required to overcome sizeable obstacles.Against Ospreys and Dragons they were put under real early pressure, particularly up front.They went behind in both of those games, but they bounced back in powerful fashion, eventually taking control of the contact area and the set piece.Against Glasgow, there we no early scares in those departments as Saints hammered away at the opposition with a pack that looked strong.
The lineout drive was a key weapon once again, handing hooker James Fish a sixth try in just three games to demonstrate just how effective that tactic has been during pre-season.The back row of James Haskell, Heinrich Brüssow and Teimana Harrison looked very good, with Brüssow in particular catching the eye in his white scrum cap.The black, green and gold were not thrown off track by the loss of Dan Biggar and Rory Hutchinson, who were both forced off with injuries inside the opening five minutes.Instead, Saints kept marching on and the only real thorn in their side was Fijian flyer Niko Matawalu, who has been their tormentor-in-chief in the past.Once Matawalu's impact on the game started to fade, Saints really got a grip of it, scoring seven tries on the night as they maintained their pre-season momentum.Now they need to use everything they have learned to ensure they pass what will be a stern examination against Danny Cipriani, Jason Woodward and Co next weekend.And if they can, the buzz around the Boyd era really will be palpable when Saints play their first Premiership home game of the campaign six days later.