We had failed to move with the times, says Saints star Harrison

After finally claiming their first Premiership crown in 2014 and finishing top of the regular season table for the first time a year later, it seemed Saints were set to build some dominance.

By Tom Vickers
Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 7:00 am
Teimana Harrison in action back in 2014
Teimana Harrison in action back in 2014

Years of hurt had been replaced by a winning mentality that took them to a memorable double during the 2013/14 campaign.

And a year later, they were ready to square up to Saracens, who they defeated in dramatic fashion in the 2014 Premiership final, in England's play-off semi-finals.

But a deflating display led to a defeat and while Saracens went from strength to strength from then on, Saints found themselves on a very different trajectory.

It eventually led to the departure of long-serving boss Jim Mallinder in December 2017 as the slide failed to stop.

And it was not until Chris Boyd arrived during the summer of 2018 that things started to turn.

Teimana Harrison, now co-captain at Franklin's Gardens, has seen it all unfold.

And he offered his reflections on what had gone wrong after that 2015 table-topping campaign as well as the reasons for the recent resurgence.

“We had a game plan under Jim and Dorian (West) that was successful for a long time, with guys like Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley and Brian Mujati in the front row and a huge, powerful man like Samu Manoa behind, but then we didn’t adapt,” Harrison said.

“Back then we had the personnel to bully teams but certain guys left and, while I’m not saying we don’t have a strong pack now, we just didn’t move with the times.

“Under Boydy we have done that and we’re playing a fast, expansive style of rugby, which is very different to the style we had when Jim and ‘Nobby’ (West) were in charge.

"Both styles work and we won a title under Jim, but you can also find yourself left behind pretty quickly.

“That’s what happened, but Boydy’s come in and changed a lot of things over the last 18 months.

“He’s put the onus back on the players and given us loads of confidence by just telling us to play rugby. Under the old regime, we were probably being suppressed quite a bit.”

So what are the main differences between the old regime and the one implemented by Boyd?

“We were quite limited in what Jim and Nobby wanted us to do, whereas you can see by the players Boydy’s brought into the side that he wants us to play that southern hemisphere style mixed with a bit of northern grit, which has been working pretty well," Harrison explained.

“I’ve got to say it’s been awesome and I enjoy playing under him. He’s an amazing coach, probably the best I’ve ever had and all the boys respect him. You can see that in the way we play and if we can just be a bit more consistent, we feel we can be a regular top two team.”

Harrison, like the rest of his Saints team-mates, is currently in self-isolation.

And he has used his time to plan for the future.

He explained: “Throughout my career I’ve never really thought about what I wanted to do after rugby, but I’m 27 now and needed to get a move on. So, over the last six months, along with my business partner Paul Geudon, I’ve developed my Wolfe clothing brand.

“Wolfe is my son’s name and I’ve always bought into that wolfpack philosophy of working together, so the concept works well for rugby and that’s my target market.

"It shows you support rugby but doesn’t scream it and they’re clothes you can wear in pubs or even in a club.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been in business and it’s building really nicely, although the virus has put a bit of a spanner in the works. But we’re about to take delivery of more T-shirts and hats and at least the lay-off means I’ve got a bit of time on my hands to focus on it.”

But Harrison is still staying in touch with rugby life.

“As vice-captain, I’m trying to keep in touch with all the boys and the coaches have been giving us plenty of things to be getting on with," he said.

“We’re in the top four and we’ve got a young, enthusiastic squad who will only get better. I’m one of the oldest members of the squad behind Tom Wood and the Franks brothers, so if you look at the talent coming through, we’re in a good place now.”