Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd admits his side lacked the accuracy needed to beat a strong Gloucester Rugby line-up on Sunday afternoon.
The men in Black, Green and Gold went down to the Cherry & Whites for the first time on home soil since 2013, losing out 40-31 in a thrilling Gallagher Premiership contest which saw 11 tries scored over 80 minutes.
"We still haven’t quite embedded the real accuracy we need when we come under pressure."Chris Boyd
Mark Atkinson’s first-half hat-trick proved to be the difference, with Gloucester scoring six tries to Northampton’s five – Taqele Naiyaravoro, Piers Francis, Cobus Reinach, Reece Marshall and Rory Hutchinson all crossing the whitewash for the hosts.
And while he believes Saints' preparation for the challenge posed by Gloucester was spot on, Boyd conceded his side were too loose against the league's third-placed side.
“We’re happy with several parts of our game but at the end of the day, you can score four or five tries but if you concede six the other way then you’ve got a battle,” he said.
“Defence wasn’t the only issue for us; we knew exactly what was coming with their power game inside that 22-metre area and that their running game with the guile of [Danny] Cipriani.
“Everything that came, we knew it was coming, but we just didn’t deal with it particularly well.
“It makes it more disappointing in respect that we still haven’t quite embedded the real accuracy we need when we come under pressure in our set piece game and in our source of the ball game. We were too loose against a side like Gloucester to expect to win.
“The game was expensive from an injury point of view. You never like to see anyone get injured but at the end of the day it’s a physical contact sport and you are always going to get injuries.
“None of them in my mind had any malice and when you have got a collision-based contest sport for the ball, occasionally you’re going to have little patches where you have a lot of injuries.”
Just four matches now remain in the Gallagher Premiership's regular season, with Northampton still to face Harlequins, Newcastle Falcons, Worcester Warriors, and Exeter Chiefs.
"We haven’t discussed what our expectation is; we just want to try and keep improving."Chris Boyd
Both top-six and top-four finishes are still on the table for Saints, but Boyd is urging his side to focus only on continuing to improve throughout the run-in.
He added: “We haven’t set a target all year around anything. It’s pretty self-explanatory that there’s a line that sits between fourth and fifth, there’s a line that sits between sixth and seventh and a line between 11th and 12th.
“We haven’t discussed as a group what our expectation is, we just want to try and keep improving and winning games.
“We’ve slipped from fifth to seventh and we’ve got four games to play including two teams above us and two below us.
“But when you get into those games, when you play people that are desperate to get somewhere or avoid something, then those games often get flipped on their head.”