Saints warrior Wood warns of vengeance

MAGICAL MOMENT - Tom Wood celebrates his crucial try in the Aviva Premiership semi-final win over Leicester Tigers (Picture: Linda Dawson)
MAGICAL MOMENT - Tom Wood celebrates his crucial try in the Aviva Premiership semi-final win over Leicester Tigers (Picture: Linda Dawson)
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It was one of the most iconic - and most important - moments in the history of Northampton Saints.

When the bearded Tom Wood scored and roared like King Leonidas in the final scene of the film 300, a dagger had been plunged into the heart of the familiar foe, Leicester Tigers.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140524-122544006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140524-122544006

And in the process, new life had been breathed into Saints’ Aviva Premiership bid.

They closed out the game, with Wood taking a priceless catch from the final restart, and went on to win the war, being crowned kings of England after slaying Saracens on the Twickenham battleground.

But the highlight of the season - and perhaps all seasons at Franklin’s Gardens - had come in the dramatic play-off semi-final denouement two weeks earlier.

“It was pretty special for me personally because I don’t score many tries and to get one that really mattered on a big occasion was huge,” said Wood, who is currently in the process of putting last season’s memorabilia up on the walls of his house, like scalps proudly displayed by a warrior.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140524-122530006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140524-122530006

“I was skipper for that game as well and between a few of us we tried to drive how we played the game and make sure we played with real pace and didn’t look to take a breath at any stage.

“We knew Leicester would rely on their front-row lads for 80 minutes, with Dan Cole being out, and we knew they would tire. That was a mantra I fully believed in and pushed quite hard.

“The lads responded well and to stick with that belief in the dying moments of the game and play multiple phases was great.

“I took the plaudits for the try and enjoyed going over in the corner, but there were multiple phases before that. It was dynamic, quick play, the work of the rest of the team that led to it and allowed me to sneak over on the far side there.

No Caption ABCDE NNL-140106-100636006

No Caption ABCDE NNL-140106-100636006

“You saw what it meant to me at the time and the emotion that came out. It was a big occasion.”

Wood’s celebration was cathartic, a release of pressure built up by years of hurt against Leicester.

Saints had not beaten Tigers for 10 games by the time they rocked up at the Gardens on that incredible spring evening.

“All anyone talked about in the week was the hold Leicester had over us and the multiple times they’d beaten us in the past,” reflected Wood, whose Saints debut had been the last time he had ended up on the winning side against Leicester.

“That try put things in our hands and to have taken the lead was huge, but just as important as the try was the kick-off receipt.

“People often forget that a knock-on and a reset scrum and suddenly there’s a penalty in front of the posts. I took the kick-off but it’s not a one-man job either. You’ve got to get people around you and secure the ball.

“We played a couple of phases, nice and controlled play and then kicked the ball off the field. Just little things like that showed how much we’d grown, how much we’d learnt over the previous few years and having the 
composure to see that game out.

“It showed the difference between us from two or three years ago and us now. Hopefully we can carry that into this year.”

Saints had finally broken Leicester’s hold over them and proceded to make history by bringing home their first Premiership title.

Now, though, they know their rivals will want revenge.

“There’s a huge amount to be excited about, everything to play for,” said the typically loquacious Wood.

“We’ve got targets on our head here at Saints. We’re Premiership champions, we’re Amlin champions and no one’s backed it up with 
two English titles on the bounce for a long time so there’s a huge amount of energy and excitement about doing that.”

Read this and more exclusive interviews with Saints stars in the brilliant pre-season preview pull-out, which is FREE inside the current edition of the Chronicle & Echo