Harrison ready to repeat his heroics as Saints look to '˜smash' Saracens
'I was having an okay game,' says Teimana Harrison with one of the understatements of the year.
The flanker was reminiscing on his most recent appearance at Allianz Park, where Saints and Saracens will again lock horns this weekend.
Last time Harrison and Co were there was back in April, for a Champions Cup quarter-final.
On that occasion, a Saints side missing several key men put up an impressive fight, going in at half-time ahead.
They eventually succcumbed, suffering a 29-20 defeat to the team that would become Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup champions soon after.
But memories of that match, and the fine individual displays in it, have not faded.
Harrison and Ben Nutley were like men possessed as they swarmed all over Saracens.
Harrison’s display was one of the outstanding individual showings of last season and it was no surprise when he went on to sweep the board at Saints’ awards dinner.
The players’ and supporters’ player of the year was also named in the Premiership dream team and was handed England recognition.
And that game at Saracens was one that really made people stand up and take notice.
“It was a good day for the team,” said the modest New Zealand-born star. “We were unlucky not to come away with the result.
“Some individuals had good games and I think this week we’ll be looking to build on that, but as a team collectively if we have a good day I think we can upset the champions.”
And when asked about his own display in that game at Allianz Park in April, Harrison smiles and says: “I was conscious that I was having an okay game, but at the time I was focused on trying to get the boys revved up and keep us in the game.
“Me and Ben have been playing together since I came over here and I was saying to him ‘wait till we get to the big leagues, bro - we’ll be there doing the same stuff’, and evidently we were.
“I enjoyed playing with Ben, he’s amazing player and I can’t wait for him to get back from his knee injury so we can put in more performances like that.”
Nutley won’t be available this weekend, but Harrison will.
And he can’t wait to line up against Saracens, and get stuck into, some familiar faces.
“Personally, I want to go out there and smash them,” Harrison says, when asked about facing the Saracens players he has got to know in the England setup.
“That would be nice going into (England) camps and saying ‘yeah, I smoked you’ and that kind of thing.
“A lot of their guys are really nice guys – I get along with them really well.
“Getting the win over them would feel even better.”
Saracens have picked up where they left off this season, thrashing Worcester Warriors before outgunning Exeter at Sandy Park last Sunday.
They are already seen as huge favourites to retain their Premiership crown this season, but can Saints go to Barnet and win, as they did in the league last season?
“They’re double champions, they’ve got a target on their head and we want to be the first guys to knock them over,” Harrison said.
“We know we can – we know we went down there last season and beat them in the league (20-15), so we know we can do it, we’ve got a good enough squad to do it.
“It’s just all about that mindset when we get down there. If we’re off by one per cent we’ll lose, if we’re that one per cent better we’ll come away with the result.”
Saints’ back row has a scary look about it, with Harrison joined by Tom Wood and Louis Picamoles, who scored his first Northampton try in the 32-10 win at Bristol last weekend.
“The pitch at Allianz Park will be perfect for us because it’s quite quick,” Harrison said.
“The ball bounces, scrums stay up, which keeps the ball in play longer, and it works in with our fitness. We pride ourselves on our fitness.
“As a squad, we like playing there.”
Though Saints have a good history at Allianz Park, they will go into this weekend’s game as underdogs.
But they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We like being underdogs,” said Harrison.
“All last year people wrote us off and we won games and were unlucky just to miss out on top four.
“We enjoy the challenge, we enjoy people saying we won’t have a chance.
“It fuels the fire and we’ll go down there and give it our all.”