Stephenson making up for lost time at Saints
Tom Stephenson could barely have imagined a better 50th appearance for Saints.
The talented centre started against Clermont Auvergne last Saturday and helped to propel his side to a stunning 34-21 success.
The French giants conceded five tries at Franklin's Gardens as Saints showcased their vast recent improvement.
And Stephenson certainly played his part, producing another strong performance that added to his fine cameo against Gloucester a week earlier.
On that occasion, the 23-year-old replaced the injured Luther Burrell eight minutes into the second half and became one of the best performers on the pitch in a gritty 22-19 win.
He was at it again Clermont, displaying the skill he has possessed since emerging from the Saints Academy.
And he now has the power to go with it, refusing to give the Frenchmen a second in possession while also keeping them on their toes in defence.
After the game, Stephenson spoke in the huddle, thanking his team-mates for helping him to celebrate his half-century in style.
And he is now fully focused on realising the potential that made him one of the hottest prospects in the Premiership following his debut against Harlequins in November 2012.
"To beat Clermont after the streak we've had was a pretty big deal for us," Stephenson said.
"It's good to be back in winning ways and it was right up there in my most enjoyable games for Saints.
"Our main focus was not going backwards after beating Gloucester.
"It wasn't a pretty performance against them but we won and we wanted to continue that momentum.
"We didn't concentrate too much on Clermont - we know what they bring and that they're a great side - we just focused on ourselves and made sure we're getting better as a team.
"We wanted to go forward rather than back and we did that with that performance."
Stephenson would have played many more than 50 matches for Saints had he not been so unfortunate with injuries in recent years.
He suffered a leg break in a friendly against Rotherham in August 2016, setting him back.
But he is now fully fit again and Stephenson is only looking forward.
"There's no secret about my past two years, it's been a long journey and I finally feel I'm coming back to playing some of the rugby I was three or four years ago," he said.
"I've been doing it for the Wandies and it's just nice to see I'm going in the right direction.
"I know I'm not back to where I was, but I'll be working hard with all the coaches."
Stephenson has made nine appearances so far this season, starting six of those games.
And needless to say, the victory against Clermont was his most enjoyable experience in recent times.
"Certainly since I've been back from my injury," he said.
"The team I was playing in three or four years ago, we were winning every game.
"Now it's slightly different, but that was definitely the happiest I've come off the pitch for a very long time."