Andy Saull says there is still plenty of room for improvement despite putting in a man-of-the-match performance on his Newcastle Falcons comeback.
The flanker was one of the Falcons’ major summer signings after moving from Saracens but has found his progress stalled by a series of niggling injuries.
The former England Saxons open-side returned in style during Sunday’s 37-15 victory over Calvisano, saying: “It was good. I enjoyed it.
“I did what I normally do, running around and trying to bring energy to the side.
“I threw two passes behind people, there were two more occasions where we had an overlap and I should have passed it wide, so there is still a lot to work on.
“I feel like I am coming back into a bit of form, but there are no excuses about rustiness because I have played two 80 minutes for Tynedale as well as the Calvisano game.
“I should have been able to make the passes that didn’t go but I am getting back into the swing of it and hoping to continue improving.”
Highlighting his game-time in National One as a key reason for hitting the ground running last weekend, the Londoner added: “Playing for Tynedale has been useful, and they have been great with me.
“You can be as fit as you like in the gym or in training, but playing games is the only way to get your match-fitness up.
“Nothing replaces that, and getting two games in a very skilful and competitive league like National One was invaluable.”
Pleased the Falcons were able to end their try-drought by running in five tries against Calvisano to join Brive at the top of their Amlin Challenge Cup group, Saull said: “We delivered what we said we were going to.
“We had said let’s be very clinical over the first two phases, really raise the tempo and play when it is on.
“The intention was never to over-think or over-call.
“We just wanted to get the ball through the hands, have a run, take them on and score some tries.
“That was very evident, there were good offloads out there and nice tries scored from individual breaks.”
Finding facets to work on ahead of the return leg in northern Italy on Saturday, he added: “They gained a few penalties from their maul and although the game possibly looked scrappy at times I felt we were in control for the most part.
“After our fourth try went in we seemed to become a bit less clinical, possibly because the boys were thinking we had the bonus point so let’s go out and have some fun.
“We stopped trying to play in the right areas, but when we got our heads on it and knuckled down I think we did everything asked of us.” Far from dismissing the Calvisano threat as they prepare to square up at Stadio Peroni near the shores of Lake Garda on Saturday, Saull said: “There were big guys in their side who played with a lot of passion.
“Sides like that are notoriously more difficult to beat on their own patch than they perhaps are away from home and in front of their own fans it could be a different game.
“They will have a lot of pride about that, and they have players who can damage you. The fly-half Kelly Haimona has a massive boot as he showed at Kingston Park and if we take our eye off the ball they are dangerous.”
The Falcons could be without Saull’s back-row team-mate Harrison Collins for the fourth of their six scheduled group games, the blind-side flanker having limped out of his home debut midway through the opening half.
Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Harrison has tweaked his knee.
“It will be properly assessed and he was one of many young players to have staked a claim last weekend.”