New boy Nic desperate to secure first Saints win
When Nic Groom flew to England to begin his Saints career a few weeks ago, he probably dreamed of scoring on his debut at Franklin's Gardens.
But what he wouldn’t have imagined was that he would score twice and still end up on the losing side.
The South African scrum-half, who joined from the Stormers, came on for the final 14 minutes of last Saturday’s Aviva Premiership clash with Bath.
But by the time he got onto the field, Saints were already 18-0 down and drifting towards defeat.
Groom did manage to inject some spark to his new team and his two tries breathed fresh life into their bid.
They still had a chance to win the match with a minute to go, but a knock-on near halfway brought an end to proceedings, giving Bath an 18-14 victory, which was their first in Northampton since April, 2000.
Bath fly-half George Ford, who had landed four penalties and two drop goals, got the man of the match award and Groom was left with a slightly hollow feeling, despite his own heroics.
“It was bittersweet,” said the 26-year-old. “It was great to be out there for my first game for Northampton at home.
“It was a pretty amazing crowd, but not to come away with a win is very disappointing.
“We worked really hard for this and unfortunately it didn’t go the way we wanted it to go.”
Groom is now looking forward to facing newly-promoted Bristol at Ashton Gate.
And he said: “They (Bristol) have got a lot to prove, coming from the Championship.
“We’ve had a massive week and we need to really improve in certain areas and get our season back on track.
“If there’s anything to take from this it’s that there’s a lot of games still to come.
“It could have gone any way last Saturday and we’re ready for the next challenge.”
Groom recognises competition is stiff for the No.9 shirt at Saints, with Lee Dickson and Tom Kessell also at the club.
He said: “We’ve got three really good scrum-halves with Tom Kessell as well.
“Everyone has their own strengths and it’s a great learning environment.
“We’re feeding off each other, trying to make each other better players and keeping the competition healthy is exactly what you want and it’s exactly what I expected in a team like this.”
Groom knows that, with three scrum-halves to choose from, Saints have a wealth of options.
And that perhaps explains what drove him to make such a rapid mark on the team last Saturday.
“Every game it’s a full squad effort and when your time comes, the challenge is to make it count,” he said.
“There was no shortage of effort. Every single guy gave it everything.
“I think we just need to make smarter decisions.
“The weather played a part and we just didn’t capitalise on our momentum.”
Despite the often incelement English weather, Groom has always harboured hopes of playing in the Premiership.
And he said: “For some reason the Premiership is something that really intrigued me.
“I think it’s going to improve my game and I’m going to try to become a good servant to the Saints.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead, but I’m enjoying it so far.”
Groom only got to Northampton last month, catapulting himself into the action immediately in the friendly double-header at Franklin’s Gardens.
He also played against Ulster six days later and he has looked lively ever since arriving in England.
And that is all despite the fact that he is yet to find a permanent residence in the area.
“So far, so good,” he said.
“I’m still looking for a place to stay and everything’s a bit all over the place, but we’ve got good guys at the club and the boys have been really helpful.
“It’s actually been a breeze trying to settle in.
“I’ve only been here two weeks but the boys are helping a lot and it’s a really easy environment to adapt to.”
Groom’s big challenge now is to get the Saints backline, which received some criticism last season, to maximise its potential.
However, he has full faith in the players around him.
“We’ve got an insane squad and we’re going to continue growing as a backline,” he said.
“For me, I’ve got to keep learning and I’ve got some experienced heads around me who lead the team well and keep control.
“As the season goes on it’s going to be about fitting in with them, understanding how they like to play and learning from each other. If we do that, we’ll be in good hands going forward.”
The pressure is on this weekend, with Saints expected to go and beat Bristol.
But that won’t worry Groom, who has quickly understood what is required of him and his team-mates.
“I know playing in a Saints jersey nothing short of a win is acceptable,” he said.
“It’s bittersweet, but I’m very happy to be here and it’s great for me to experience a matchday.
“I can’t wait for my first win in a Saints shirt.”
Groom, and everyone else of a Saints persuasion, will be desperate for that win to come this weekend.