It was a happy homecoming for Saints as the Aviva Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup champions began their pre-season campaign with a stirring 33-28 win against Rotherham Titans.
Christian Day’s late score got the job done as Northampton, back at Franklin’s Gardens for the first time since claiming double glory in May, were forced to recover from 21-12 down at the break to secure the victory.
Rotherham had impressed, registering three quick first-half scores through Curtis Wilson, James Broadley and Tom Cruse, with Joel Gill adding another in the second period.
But the experimental Saints side, which included a mix of youth and experience, fought back with Day, replacement hooker Reece Marshall and a penalty try adding to first-half Teimana Harrison and Howard Packman efforts.
Will Hooley, Dom Waldouck and Rory Hutchinson all performed kicking duties on an afternoon which again showcased the character running through the Northampton squad.
Rotherham certainly had their moments though, and they showed they would not be a push over from the off.
The Championship side’s blue tide of defence swarmed all over Saints when the home team had the ball.
There was constant, loud encouragement from the visiting bench, who were clearly delighted with the application of their players in the opening stages.
Saints’ half-backs Alex Day and Hooley were doing their best to get their team moving with the former rushing to every ruck and the latter picking his spot with grubber kicks.
But still the Titans held firm, shutting the door before stealing the ball. They looked lively on the break, with Wilson providing energy and endeavour with a flying forward burst.
Packman did the same at the other end, being bundled into touch as he tried to go around the side of the defence, before fledgling centre Hutchinson’s cutting run was halted at the last.
With the backs’ game not bringing much reward, Saints turned up the heat in the set piece, and it paid dividends.
After a lineout was won five metres out, the ball came to Harrison who showed quick feet and good strength to resist Rotherham tackles and dive over for the opening score.
Hooley fired the conversion wide of the posts and Saints were soon stunned by three quick tries.
First, Wilson’s searing pace took him away and he beat a despairing dive from Cam Dolan to touch down.
It was not the best defending from the USA No.8 and Saints were soon struggling again as Packman and Hutchinson failed to stop Broadley scoring in the corner.
Rotherham were in dreamland and they were soon celebrating behind the posts again as Cruse found himself in acres of space to score.
James McKinney added his third conversion of the day to take the advantage to 16 points, but Packman soon cut the gap, turning on the turbos to dot down.
Hooley added the extras to make the scoreline more respectable at the break, when both teams rang the changes.
The injection of new blood benefited Saints immediately as trialist Jon Fisher spilled the ball into the path of Marshall, who slammed the ball down to score.
Waldouck made the conversion and Saints were starting to swarm all over their opponents as some neat skill from Ken Pisi almost provided another try.
But it was the Titans who were to score next as some quick hands in midfield took them to within range and a looped pass out wide found Gill, who trotted in for the try.
McKinney landed his fourth successful conversion of the day as the sun washed over the Gardens surface for the first time, and Saints required a bright response.
Rotherham’s Alex Rieder was sin-binned late on and it was to prove costly as Saints used the man advantage to squeeze a penalty try out of the referee.
Hutchinson’s conversion brought the home side back to within two points and they were to get the victory they deserved as Christian Day went through the middle to score.
Hutchinson added the gloss to ensure Saints started their pre-season campaign with a win.
Saints: Packman; Elliott (K Pisi 40), Hutchinson (Stephenson 40), Waldouck, Skelcey; Hooley (Olver 40), A Day (Robinson 75); E Waller (Hobbs-Awoyemi 40), McMillan (Marshall 40), Denman (Parkins 40); Woolford (Onojaife 40), Craig (C Day 40); Dowson (Conner 40), Harrison (Clark 40), Dolan (Fisher 40).
Replacements not used: G Dickson, Wilson.
Rotherham: Scanlon; Broadley, Roberts, J Davies, WIlson; McKinney, White; Hislop, Cruise, Tampin; Parker, Holmes; Morris, Preece, Rieder.
Replacements: Birch, Matthews, Thiede, Gadd, Argyle, Robinson, Williams, A Davies, Rath, Harris, Gill, Hayes, Barratt, McGaffin.