Director of rugby Chris Boyd tipped his cap to a gutsy Saints performance on Friday evening, as Northampton held on to beat Worcester Warriors at Sixways.
The men in Black, Green and Gold were 13-3 ahead at the break thanks to the unerring boot of James Grayson and a try from Mikey Haywood, but – after letting a half-time lead slip in two of their last three matches – it looked like Saints might have been made to rue missed chances.
Ollie Lawrence’s try brought the hosts right back into the game, but another sweet strike from the boot of Grayson and a determined defensive effort in the closing stages meant Northampton picked up a 16-10 win to stay inside the Gallagher Premiership’s top four.
“It was a gutsy performance; it showed some good character and it was based on a pretty good defensive effort.”Chris Boyd
In the aftermath Boyd admitted the performance was far from perfect, but the Kiwi coach insists the character of his side cannot be questioned in what has been a tricky few weeks for the Club.
“That game could have been another London Irish or Bristol where we gave up a lead, because we put ourselves in a difficult situation,” he said.
“We coughed up the kick-off, gave away a penalty, went down to 14 men and managed to hold out in the lineout drive.
“It was a gutsy performance; it showed some good character and it was based on a pretty good defensive effort.
“There are some positives in the work ethic, but we were still pretty rough. People started to get tired and the skill level went away.
“It's interesting the knock-on effect it has when a lot of senior players go away on international duty or get injured – the skill level and the ability to play under pressure drops away a little bit.
“As we got tired, defence became more important and people started making more mistakes. It was just a grind at the end, but we came through it.”
Andy Symons produced a man-of-the-match performance in Saints’ midfield, consistently getting over the gainline while also showing several deft touches with ball in hand.
And the centre’s performance impressed Boyd, who is now looking forward to the opportunity to give some of his workhorses some rest with Northampton not playing until Saturday 21 March.
Boyd added: “What Symo does, he does really well – and I often say to the boys, when you work on your extras, don’t forget to work on what you’re best at because it’s good to be the best at something.
“Symo is very good at some parts of his game and he’s got some work-ons for other parts, but he was very solid for us against Worcester.
“Alex Coles has endured an enormous load for us in recent weeks at just 20 years old too, with a few of our more senior second rows away, and he’s done a sterling job.
“This year for him was just meant to be a development year; he wasn’t supposed to be playing that much, he was supposed to be growing and getting bigger and stronger while playing a few Wanderers games and improving his skill level.
“But we’ve needed him and he’s done a really good job. He’ll have a bit of extra time off next week when we don’t have a game, as will the likes of Tom Wood and Teimana Harrison who have got through a lot of work too. They need to freshen up.”