Northampton Saints’ gutsy come-from-behind 26-24 triumph over Exeter Chiefs was a sign of the side’s increased experience and maturity, according to Director of Rugby Chris Boyd.
The men in Black, Green and Gold went 14-0 down after just eight minutes at Sandy Park, but tries from Alex Mitchell and Matt Proctor got them back into the contest before James Grayson and George Furbank kicked four crucial penalties between them to snatch a nail-biting triumph.
The visitors also had to contend with losing Sam Matavesi to a ten-minute sin-bin just before half-time, but a resolute defensive effort coupled with nerveless kicking from the tee steered Saints to their second win in Exeter of 2021.
Boyd admitted his Northampton side still have improvements to make, but after defeating last season’s Gallagher Premiership finalists, the Kiwi coach was thrilled with the progress Saints are making in key moments of matches.
“I’m very pleased with the four points and in patches I thought we played very well,” he said.
“We gave them a 14-point lead, and for us to peg that back and hold our nerve at the end, and kick a couple of goals to sneak a win – I don’t think this side would have been able to do that 18 months ago.
“It shows we’re maturing, albeit against an Exeter side that is pretty depleted with injuries and availability, so we know there’s more to come.
“We are learning and a lot of the side is getting older, so the average age is getting higher and the more times you go through this sort of situation, the more you learn and understand.”Chris Boyd, Director of Rugby
“It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means but we’re certainly happy with the four points here.
“We showed good guts for long periods of time. I was very, very pleased with our lineout defence – both defending the drive from Exeter, and also nicking two or three off the top of the lineout. Our set piece went very well.”
Saints’ strength off the bench was also noticeable at Sandy Park, with the likes of Paul Hill, Nick Auterac, Juarno Augustus, and Tommy Freeman making key interventions in the second half.
Meanwhile Fiji scrum-half Frank Lomani also entered the action for the final ten minutes to make his Club debut.
Boyd said: “If you look at the sides that clock up a lot of wins, they have good energy coming off the bench, and I thought our replacements today were pretty decent so we’re happy about that.
“We probably would have got criticised for the decision to take off Jimmy (Grayson) if he (Furbank) had missed his kicks at the end, but in the 15 minutes previous to that change, he was doing a lot of the kicking through the middle of the field anyway.
“There was a bit of risk in that – it’s the same with Frank (Lomani) coming on for his debut at the end there because he’s still just coming to terms with the way we play so there’s risk in that – but they’ll be better for the run-out.”
💬 “We spoke about the need for a strong start, but when we didn't get that I was pleased with our composure to come back into the game.”— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) September 26, 2021
Chris Boyd reacts to another dramatic victory at Sandy Park.
Next up for Saints is a home Premiership clash against London Irish next Saturday (kick-off: 3pm), and Boyd is challenging his squad to consolidate their strong start to the campaign with a string of consistent performances.
“Our biggest problem is not whether or not we can play; we’ve always known that on our day, we can beat anyone,” he added.
“The question that we keep asking ourselves is, ‘can we play consistently?’ And time will tell – we’ve had a couple of good wins now to start the season, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer by any means, and all the games are tough so we just need to keep performing.”