Tuala so relieved 'rookie mistake' didn't cost Saints

Thankfully for Ahsee Tuala, he’s now able to laugh about the late lapse that almost left him reeling at the Ricoh Arena earlier this month.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 18th February 2021, 7:00 am
Ahsee Tuala kept the ball in play after the clock hit 80 at the Ricoh Arena, but Saints eventually escaped with the win (picture: Peter Short)
Ahsee Tuala kept the ball in play after the clock hit 80 at the Ricoh Arena, but Saints eventually escaped with the win (picture: Peter Short)

With the clock in the red, Tuala, who had come on as a second-half replacement for Taqele Naiyaravoro, booted the ball into the Wasps half rather than into the stands.

It led to stunned shouts from the sidelines as Saints faced the prospect of suffering the kind of late heartache they inflicted on Harlequins when Ben Botica did a similar thing at The Stoop back in February 2016.

But Lewis Ludlam got over the ball and grabbed the penalty that stopped there from being a sting in the tail as Saints beat Wasps 22-17.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

And when asked about the decision not to end the game, Tuala explained it was all about the excitement of making his return to action following a recent battle with Covid-19.

“When I came on, I didn’t really check the time or anything, I was just stoked to be out there running around,” Tuala said.

“Luckily for me, we’ve got a good kick-chase defence and Luds got me out of that one so it was good.

“I was just too excited to be out there and I didn’t look at the time - I actually thought there was about 15 minutes left and got my bearings wrong.

“It was a rookie mistake from me.

“I was hoping they wouldn’t score and big ups to the boys for getting me out of that one.

“That (the Botica incident) came to mind after I kicked it!”

Tuala’s glee at being back on the pitch is probably understandable given the way his 2020 had started.

The Samoan back and his wife were hit by Covid-19.

Tuala explained: “I got Covid and was out for a couple of weeks but I’m fully recovered now, which is the main thing.

“It does affect you. Everyone’s different but it took me a while to get the lungs going and for about three or four days I was just in bed and couldn’t do much - I wasn’t eating or drinking.

“It did have quite a big effect on my return to play but it’s all good now and it’s good to be back.

“The boys have been doing really well.

“There have been a few opportunities for young fellas to put their hand up and it’s good to see.

“Tommy Freeman is one of the kids who has got an opportunity and he’s really good.

“He’s been playing some good footy, he’s fitted in at training really well and he’s definitely one to keep an eye on for the future.”

Freeman, Tuala and Co will help Saints to continue their recent march up the Premiership standings.

Last weekend’s cancellation of the fixture against Newcastle Falcons added another four points to the black, green and gold tally.

Saints are now fifth in the table, just two points adrift of the top four.

But they have a huge test in front of them on Saturday against an Exeter side who are the reigning Premiership and Champions Cup champions.

The Chiefs have won three games in a row and are second in the league standings, just a point behind table-toppers Bristol Bears.

Saints have not won at Sandy Park since February 2014, losing their past 10 fixtures at the ground.

But they are in high spirits heading into this weekend’s encounter, having won three matches in a row.

Tuala said: “When we win it’s obviously a good bonus for us and creates a good feel around the environment.

“It’s good to have some momentum and it really helps us and puts us in a good position.

“We need to push forward in these next few games.

“We know what Exeter are like and they’re a really good team all over the pitch but we need to go there and implement our game and back ourselves this weekend.

“It is nice to be higher up the table and our main goal is to keep pushing forward to the top of the table and put ourselves in position to win some silverware.

“It’s a great opportunity to test ourselves against the double champions this weekend.”