Tom Stephenson was delighted to be back out on the Franklin’s Gardens pitch as he helped Saints to success in the Singha Premiership Rugby Sevens Bowl on Saturday night.
Saints saw off east midlands rivals Leicester Tigers 24-21 in a thrilling Bowl final, with Tom Collins scoring the match-winning try in the final minute.
The victory was a welcome one for Saints in the third tier sevens competition, after Saints had finished bottom of their group in Friday’s qualifying stage.
Wasps won the main event, seeing off Newcastle Falcons 31-12 in the final, while Gloucester claimed the Plate honours, beating Saracens 29-22 in their final.
But for Stepehnson, the main thing was to just be out playing on the Gardens pitch again after suffering a broken leg in a pre-season friendly against Rotherham Titans last August.
“It’s really good to be back,” Stepheson told northamptonsaints.com.
“It’s a little bit of a different circumstance with the sevens, I’d have much preferred to be playing 15s but it was good to get that blow out which I definitely needed.”
Along with Collins, Stephenson has been playing in Australia for Randwick, with the pair noth getting back to Northampton until early last week.
“We got back Monday morning so on Friday night playing at 10pm was a tough one, we were a bit jet lagged,” said Stephenson.
“It was good to get it over and done with though, good to get some air into the lungs, although I could definitely have with a new pair on Saturday morning.
“But it was good for me and TC to get back out there in the black, gold and green.”
Talking of his time in Australia, Stephenson added: “We had some really good experiences out there.
“The club we were at had a great bunch of lads and some great coaches.
“It was good just to be able to play a different style of rugby, in the sun with some dry ball so it was good all round.
“When I was signing my most recent contract, I’d been out of rugby for 19 months and going out to Australia I just needed to reset my mind really.
“I’d been in the gym for two years or so and not really doing a lot.
“So I needed to get out and see some of the world but also play some rugby. I’m really glad we went and that TC came along and added to the experience.
“It was good to test it out on a dry track but it’s all about getting fit and ready for the 15s games back here in Northampton now.
“We’ve got a week off next week which I think is needed but then we’re back in and into the preseason games.
“It’ll be good to get back to the 15s and see if we can bring what we learned out in Australia back here.”
Saints finished bottom of their qualifying group on Friday, missing out on a quarter-final place in the main event on points difference.
That was due to their heavy 33-0 defeat at the hands of group winners Exeter Chiefs, with Saints’ 12-7 win over Saracens not enough to see them through, after Sarries had beaten Chiefs 26-19 in the other group game.
In the Bowl semi-finals, Saints beat London Irish 26-12 while Leicester were 19-12 winners over Bath Rugby.
Saints’ try-scorers against Irish were Ollie Sleightholme, Collins, Alex Mitchell and Fraser Dingwall
In the final, Collins scored two tries, including his last-gasp winner.
Tigers’ Jack Stapley and Saints’ George Furbank exchanged scores in the first half before a mazy run through the heart of the Leicester defence by Collins made it 10-7 to the hosts at half-time.
Tom Ffitch converted his own score to put the Tigers back ahead before Charlie Dockery extended their lead to 21-10 with two minutes remaining at Franklin’s Gardens.
But Saints never-say-die spirit was on full show as Tom Emery got them back in the game before Collins’ second score of the game gave the hosts their dramatic last-minute win.