Dylan Hartley admitted he was happy to draw a line under a ‘long summer’ after leading Saints to victory against Exeter.
The skipper scored the opening try in a 38-11 demolition of the Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership curtain-raiser at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
It was a fine performance from all of the Saints squad, but Hartley’s showing was all the more impressive due to his lack of pre-season action.
The England star had been serving an 11-week ban for the red card he received in May’s Premiership final defeat to Leicester, ruling him out until the start of this month.
And Hartley was pleased to put an end to a period of his career that saw him miss out on a place on the successful British & Irish Lions tour.
“(It’s been) a long summer, but that’s been well-documented and I’m just happy to draw a line under it,” he said.
“It was the perfect way to start the season and start afresh.”
And on his own performance, he added: “I just felt like I played the game like I finished the end of last season. Nothing was different. I played solid rugby.”
Saints boss Jim Mallinder was happy with Hartley’s showing, heaping praise on the influential hooker.
“He put in a determined performance,” said Mallinder. “There’s been a lot of talk about him but all he can do is play and show what he can do on the field. He responded magnificenty.
“We looked at the stats and he’d covered the most metres in terms of everyone in our team at half-time and it was an outstanding performance.
“He’s worked very hard. He’s had no pre-season games so to come in and play like that shows the quality of player he is. He’s a class player.
“I’ve said it before but he’s our leader because he plays and leads by example.”