Director of Rugby Chris Boyd is expecting a strong response from his Northampton Saints charges this week, after the men in Black, Green and Gold turned in a sub-par performance to lose 7-31 against Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens.
Northampton had been building nicely in the Gallagher Premiership after three straight victories over Worcester Warriors, London Irish and Leicester Tigers, making Saturday’s uncharacteristic performance against the Cherry & Whites all the more surprising.
Gloucester started brightly with a Louis Rees-Zammit score in the corner, and though Saints’ defensive efforts kept them in it at the break, three further tries were added by the visitors in the second half, meaning Henry Taylor’s late try for the hosts was no more than a consolation.
Boyd tipped his cap to George Skivington’s side for producing an effective game plan, but insists his side’s showing in no way represented their usual high standards.
“When English people walk their dogs, they put stuff in those little plastic bags,” he said. “We had a big one of those bags today.
“We didn’t win anything. Credit to Gloucester, they came with a plan. But we didn’t win the set-piece, the breakdown, the kicking game, nothing. When you’re not winning any part of your game you’ve got nothing to rebuild on.
“Normally with our guys, you can’t fault their commitment, but we were outplayed in every aspect and the score was a reflection of that.
“It’s massively disappointing; we’ve been heading north for the last month, been playing reasonably good code, but there was something in our preparation and performance around that that was unacceptable. We would expect from the whole group a reasonable response to that.
“We took a week off after Leicester and would normally have said that would be positive, because you get some freshness and everyone comes back reenergised and enthused, but obviously a week off in the COVID environment is not as attractive as in a non-COVID environment.
“One thing I did notice was that nobody went away, they all milled around and did some bits and pieces at the Club. It wasn’t a meaningful holiday. To say that time off had any impact or not, I think you would be clutching at straws.”
The loss, combined with other results around the Premiership, left Saints nine points behind the top four.
And with just four rounds of fixtures remaining, Boyd admitted that any hopes for semi-final rugby now lie outside of Northampton’s control – although there is still hope for the men in Black, Green and Gold.
Boyd said: “We’ve let the top four slip out of our hands now. We’re going to have to rely on other people beating other people.
“What will be will be, and we’re just going to try going about things game-by-game. If it’s enough, it’s enough, but this loss certainly places a massive dent in our hopes.”Chris Boyd, Director of Rugby
“We’d have to win four out of the last four games, which is a big ask. We’ll certainly be looking to do that but we have lost control of it ourselves.
“Everyone in the changing room is embarrassed by the performance, so you’d hope that you get a response.”