Mallinder hungry for more after making scoring return for Saints

There weren't too many bright spots during Saints' first-half display against Benetton on Sunday - but there was no doubt what the highlight was.

Harry Mallinder made his return to Saints action on Sunday
Harry Mallinder made his return to Saints action on Sunday

Six minutes in, the black, green and gold pieced together a trademark attacking move.

James Grayson and Taqele Naiyaravoro combined before the moment everyone of a Saints persuasion wanted to see arrived.

Harry Mallinder, looking more streamlined thanks to his sharp new hair cut, flew forward, gathered the pass from Naiyaravoro and dived over the line.

Tommaso Benvenuti may have got his hand around Mallinder's neck, but nothing and no one was stopping the 23-year-old from scoring that try.

He had waited 15 long months to be back in Saints action, having suffered a serious knee injury against Clermont Auvergne in October 2018.

And his delight at being able to wear the black, green and gold again was there for all to see in an outpouring of raw emotion after the try was scored.

"It was a huge relief to be back out there," said Mallinder, who was mobbed by jubilant team-mates after he crossed the line.

"Although the day didn't go as planned, it's a huge day for me personally because it's been a really testing 15 months or so.

"Every other thought was about this moment and I was so happy to be back.

"It was nice to score and when you've got the big man (Naiyaravoro) playing alongside you, you've just got to expect it at all times.

"He did the hard bit and I just had to walk in.

"It brought back a few memories instantly.

"The hardest part for me when I knew I was playing was to contain that excitement and that energy and channel it towards the game itself, and a lot of that came out there."

As with any injury, there was always uncertainty for Mallinder about how long he would be out.

As it turned out, it was longer than expected as he suffered setbacks that stopped him playing a part in the new-look setup at the club where he came through the Academy.

"The initial phase when you're waiting and then you find out the complexities of the injury you've got - that's difficult," he explained.

"They immediately hit you with a length of time that you will be out for and it's longer than you'd have ever have thought.

"Then you have setbacks because you have a couple of good days or a couple of good weeks and then something else pops up.

"It has been tough, but I've got such good people around me, such amazing friends and family - and the boys here at Saints have been incredible.

"For me, (senior physiotherapist) Nathan Allwork has been with me through absolutely everything - from the minute I went down injured to now.

"The support emotionally and physically has been incredible from the physios and medics.

"I've got to thank (senior strength and conditioning coach) Ben Rhodes as well for his involvement and for putting my needs first every single day.

"I'm so grateful that at this club we have such incredible people looking after us because I couldn't have done it without them."

One thing that has been hugely important for Mallinder's mental wellbeing has been his work with the Saints Foundation, which sets out to improve the lives of thousands of people within the local community

"I've allowed myself to really put my situation into perspective," said Mallinder, who is a Saints Foundation ambassador.

"I've spent a lot of time with the Saints Foundation and that has helped me enormously because when I see real problems and real issues that young people are going through in this town and this county, it makes me feel like what I've been going through is pretty insignificant."

That obviously helped Mallinder's mindset as he prepared to return to action.

And the talented back says he didn't feel any nerves before the Benetton clash, having been able to ease himself in with the Wanderers during the previous few weeks.

"I didn't feel nervous at all because I had the benefit of those Wanderers games," Mallinder said.

"I've been training for a long time now with the group and I really feel better than ever before.

"It was just a bit of a relief, not nervous energy, just excitement really."

Mallinder was meant to play on the wing against Benetton, but a late injury to George Furbank during the warm-up saw him move to full-back.

It was not a switch that affected him though, as he is capable of playing in a variety of backline positions.

"I was obviously meant to play on the wing on Sunday but then I went to full-back because Furbs went down injured," he said.

"I didn't really have time to think about it. I had a minute or two before kick-off and there was no disappointment because of how excited I was to play in general.

"Hopefully Furbs will be okay because he's had an incredible season so far.

"For me, it's about keep playing, see where Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) wants to use me, keep enjoying it and get myself back into things.

"I want to play this week and the week after.

"I feel great, I feel ready to go and as long as Boydy wants me to play, hopefully I can play."