Foden hoping return to his best form can put Saints in contention

Ben Foden was in fine form at The Stoop last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Ben Foden was in fine form at The Stoop last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Sometimes things are just meant to be.

The fickle finger of fate waggles in your direction, and there is nothing you can do about it.

But last weekend, Saints were delighted to receive a helping hand.

And Ben Foden says that he knew it would be his team’s day from the moment he kept the ball in play in the final seconds at The Stoop.

The full-back showed superb awareness as he worked with the wind to inflict heartache on Harlequins.

He saw Quins’ replacement fly-half Ben Botica attempt to kick the ball out to end the game, but the breeze brought it into play, silencing the cheers of the home fans.

What happened next was sheer composure on Foden’s part as he patted the ball down, gathered it, passed it to Jamie Elliott, stopped Quins turning it over and, eventually, finished the move that won the match.

“When the ball first went in the air, I just thought ‘it’s out’, but then the wind kicked in,” Foden explained, sitting in the more relaxed setting of the weekly press session at Franklin’s Gardens.

“I thought ‘I’m going to catch it, but if I catch it I’m going to run out, so I’m going to flap it’.

“I flapped it, then it bounced and I felt that I was in play. I threw it to Jamie and as soon as I did that he started running away from me so I thought ‘oh no, no one’s near him so we need to get near him to ruck it out’.

“Once that happened we were back in the phase play and it was just about getting our hands back on the ball and getting back into shape.

“It’s weird in a situation like that because I knew once we kept the ball in, we were going to win.

“You get that sense of excitement in the team, with everyone buzzing, and you find that extra three or four per cent that you need to cross the whitewash. That really came out at the weekend.”

The try sparked wild scenes of jubilation, with assistant coach Alan Dickens so delighted that he ran from the touchline to get involved.

But Foden’s celebration was slightly more muted.

“I was knackered to be honest and I was going to dive, but I put the ball down with one hand and I thought that my dad would tell me off because he’s always told me to put it down with two,” he said. “He says ‘don’t be a showboater’.

“I thought ‘I need to do a really good celebration here because we’ve won’, but I was too tired and everyone jumped on me so I just enjoyed the moment for what it was.

“It was a brilliant rugby moment for Northampton Saints, but a terrible moment for Harlequins fans as well.”

And it justified Jim Mallinder’s decision to give Foden a week off at the end of last month.

The full-back, who was rested for the game against Wasps, said: “Jim sat me down on the Monday and just said ‘you’ve played every minute of every game’ and I only went away for a week in the summer because I was doing rehab on my knee.

“I was pushing to get back for the World Cup, which didn’t quite happen, so they said I needed to get away at some point and Jim called me to tell me they were giving me the week off.

“I thought it meant I would be training but I would get the weekend off, but he told me I didn’t have to watch and I could just get away with the Mrs somewhere. I gave the Mrs a call and we flew off to Finland for a week.

“It was nice to get away and freshen up because when things are so up and down in the season, rugby can get too much and you start overthinking things.

“It was good to get away.

“I watched the game online, which wasn’t pretty viewing, but it meant I came back with a spring in my step.

“With the way things turned out, it was quite a good thing.”

Foden missed the second half of last season due to a knee injury picked up in the Champions Cup win at Ospreys in January.

But, that Wasps game aside, he has started every match so far this time round.

“Now, it’s good to be fully fit and be confident that nothing’s going to tweak and I can just go out and play rugby again,” Foden said.

“Hopefully now we can see more of the old Ben Foden back, scoring a few more tries and making a few more metres.”

And Foden will be desperate to etch his name on the scoresheet once again when London Irish come calling at the Gardens this weekend.

If Saints can win, they can continue to add fuel to their bid to make the Aviva Premiership top four this season.

They are currently seven points adrift of fourth-placed Quins with half ot the campaign - 11 games to be precise - still to go.

And Foden said: “It’s very close in the middle of the table.

“We’re definitely not out of it, we need to win some games.

“We probably need Saracens to do us a few favours and it would be good if they could run away with it at the top and just take points from people who are around us.

“But it’s just on us and hopefully we can win the next four or five games, get the points we need and put the pressure on those top four spots.

“If we can sneak in there, as Saracens showed last year, anything can happen.

“We’re at the halfway stage and we know there’s a lot to work on after what’s happened this season, but we’re still alive and that’s the main thing.”