Director of Rugby Chris Boyd admitted that his Northampton Saints side came up short against a Racing 92 side packed with quality on Friday evening.
The men in Black, Green and Gold went down in their Heineken Champions Cup opener, losing 45-14 to the French giants – who have finished as runners-up in the competition three times in the last six seasons.
Courtnall Skosan and Fraser Dingwall both got on the scoresheet for Saints, with skipper Lewis Ludlam also seeing a try chalked off by the TMO, but Racing stretched clear thanks to a hat-trick from Wenceslas Lauret and Juan Imhoff’s brace.
It was a frustrating night for Northampton, who entered the clash with plenty of optimism after back-to-back Gallagher Premiership wins in the weeks beforehand, but Boyd conceded Saints did not adjust quickly enough after a slow start to the clash at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
“We didn’t get much going,” he said. “We tried hard but when they needed to, they stepped it up a gear and at times we were unable to live with them.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t get more of our game onto the field, but they applied a lot of pressure to our set piece and at the breakdown, and we were a bit slow to react to the referee’s interpretation of what was going on there.
“They came at us hard physically and at times we were sloppy under that pressure, so there are some good learnings for us to take.”Chris Boyd, Director of Rugby
“We were hoping at the end there we could put enough pressure on them to get another couple of tries and a bonus point, but I thought at times their defence was outstanding and that we were not patient enough or accurate enough.
“There are lots of good lessons out there and if you aspire to improve, there are often some telling lessons, but the boys were pretty down afterwards and disappointed with the outcome and the performance.
“We’ve got to look at whether it was technical or tactical, but at the end of the day it was well short of being good enough.”
Saints must now dust themselves off quickly with a trip to Belfast to face Ulster ahead this Friday evening, and Boyd knows that Saints need to get something from the game if they are keep their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup alive.
Boyd said: “Injuries are more likely to determine selection for this week in Ulster than the result on Friday night.
“We’re going to have to look very carefully at those guys that we’ve been nurturing along for a couple of weeks now.
“We might have to give them a bit of time off to get them right for the next block, but we’ll take the best team we can to Ulster who are fit to play, and we know that we need to get some points from that game if we want to stay in the hunt in this competition.”