Naiyaravoro is now so vital for Saints

Taqele Naiyaravoro scored twice for Saints last Friday
Taqele Naiyaravoro scored twice for Saints last Friday

There were times last season when you wondered whether Taqele Naiyaravoro’s switch to Saints would work out as hoped.

Because while he clearly had incredible attacking prowess, there were a few worries at the other end of the field.

Teams took him on defensively and caused him some problems.

But as the season went on, Naiyaravoro got better in defence and his attacking game, which was never is doubt, became simply unstoppable.

This season, Naiyaravoro has appeared to have it all.

He hasn’t been troubled defensively and opposition sides have found him almost impossible to deal with.

He tortured Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in the Premiership Rugby Cup clash and did the same against Saracens on the following weekend as Saints claimed a stunning win in the Gallagher Premiership opener.

Naiyaravoro had taken a knock in that game and spent the early part of following week in a surgical boot as a precaution.

But, much to Worcester’s disappointment, he was fit to square up to the Warriors at Franklin’s Gardens.

And, yet again, the powerhouse wing showed just how quickly he can break an opposition defence, and a game, wide open.

Saints used a dominant scrum to deliver him with the possession he needed to demolish all before him and get the ball down.

It was a key try as Saints built on an earlier Tom Collins effort to take the game away from Worcester.

At 20-9 up, they moved through the gears, scoring three more tries to put the game to bed and the try bonus point in their pocket.

And once again, they could thank Naiyaravoro for his sizeable efforts as he was replaced with 10 minutes to go.

It was quite a way for the 27-year-old to celebrate signing a new two-year deal at Saints in the build-up to the game.

And he just keeps going from strength to strength, producing arguably his most destructive display of the season so far last Friday.

Naiyaravoro steamrollered Harlequins not once but twice as he delivered a man of the match showing in a 40-22 success.

His performances are proving to be worth the entrance fee alone at Franklin's Gardens right now.

And he is a man admired and much loved by his team-mates and coaches.

"He's been excellent," said Saints forwards coach Phil Dowson.

"Some of the press after the game last Friday was about how much of an athlete he is and what a big man he is, but what maybe goes unnoticed is the work he's been doing with (attack coach) Sam Vesty about his decision making around the offload and his work defensively with (defence coach) Alan Dickens.

"A lot of the cerebral side of the game probably goes unnoticed when you see big T, but he's improved, he's had a brilliant pre-season, he's looking well and he's playing well."

Keeping Naiyaravoro for at least another two seasons after this one is a big boost for Saints.

And Dowson added: "It's brilliant and fantastic to keep him here because of what he can do to defences.

"He would have been a very sought after player, but it says how happy he is here and how happy his family are here that he was willing to stay.

"He buys into what Chris (Boyd) is looking to build."

Naiyaravoro's team-mates are able to just give him the ball and watch him go.

And lock David Ribbans said: "I don't know why teams would kick the ball down his channel at the moment - he's playing great rugby.

"We've just got to use him. He's a massive threat for us and he's got subtle touches as well.

"Not only does he run over people, he's got great hands and awareness of the game so I'm very chuffed he's with us.

"We all strive to be like him. Unfortunately when we're in the grind in the middle, we don't get the chance of the offloads like him, but he's a class player.

"It's really exciting he's staying with us and he's a great guy off the field as well."