Director of Rugby Chris Boyd admits he was encouraged by Northampton Saints’ performance on their first Gallagher Premiership outing of the new campaign, despite the result against Sale Sharks.
The men in Black, Green and Gold narrowly went down 32-23 in Manchester against one of this season’s title contenders, and fought back from 17-0 down to draw within a score of the Sharks as the game entered the final few minutes.
A cheap penalty cost Saints a bonus point however and Boyd was left ruing his side’s slow start and lack of accuracy at a few key points of the game.
But the Kiwi head coach – who last week signed a contract extension to keep him at Franklin’s Gardens until at least 2022 – was heartened overall by Northampton’s showing as he looks to arrest a frustrating run of defeats stretching back to last season.
“We’ll have to be strong around the disappointment of losing the first game against Sale, but there was significantly more upside to that performance than towards the end of last season,” he said.
“We went up to Manchester with an intent to win, of course, but we stayed in touch and came back at them to get within six points with only a few minutes left.
“We were optimistic that we could have snuck away with a win then, but it wasn’t to be in one moment from the kick-off that didn’t go quite right. We just need to keep ironing out those moments and getting better.
“But the scrum and the lineout were both good. We obviously had one overthrow that was a bit costly, but we scrummaged well and the lineout was good, so overall the contest on the ball was pretty good and certainly that area was encouraging.
“At the Gardens six or seven weeks ago [when Sale beat Saints 34-14], we were outmuscled and we didn’t want to go to Sale and for that to happen, and by and large there wasn’t a lack of willingness or intent.
“We just weren’t accurate enough in some key moments.”Chris Boyd, Director of Rugby
Tom Collins and Piers Francis crossed for the visitors in Sale, with James Grayson and replacement Harry Mallinder also kicking penalties for Saints, but it was not enough as Northampton conceded four scores to Steve Diamond’s Sharks.
And Boyd revealed that, in the build-up to this weekend’s clash against Harlequins at Franklin’s Gardens, a ‘pretty aggressive’ review was called for in that area.
He said: “I don’t think anybody really stood out – it was a good all-round performance.
“Tom Wood toiled away pretty hard, but you’d be hard pushed to say anyone was absolutely outstanding. I thought we were good across the board without being brilliant.
“But two of their tries were from signature plays that we had practiced for the previous week, and we knew how to defend.
“In both cases, people made critical reads and made mistakes on both of those tries, so we have to be hard on ourselves – when you know what’s coming, you’ve got to get yourself in the right position and do the right things.
“It’s disappointing and has led to a pretty aggressive review that we knew those two plays were coming, and we still failed to defend them.
“So we’ll need to be better there this week.”