While Saints belied three first-half yellow cards to lead Ulster in Saturday evening’s Challenge Cup quarter-final, Chris Boyd conceded that time defending with men down may have taken too much out of the tank.
The men in Black, Green and Gold were reduced to 13 players at one stage, but despite long spells camped on their own line, would turnaround 22-14 to the good thanks to Alex Mitchell’s score and a quick-fire double for Tommy Freeman.
A brief look at the statistics, however, shows that Saints ended the evening having made almost double the number of energy-sapping tackles compared to the Ulstermen.
“I was really pleased with how we went in the first half,” Boyd said. “I thought we were winning the collisions and we were winning the aerial battle.
“Unfortunately after half-time – I don’t know if we lost too much petrol trying to soak up the pressure that they put on us when we were down to 13 men – they won most of the collisions and certainly started dominating the sky.Chris Boyd
“Life became very much tougher.
“The style they play and practice; they are very good at it. It wasn’t mentally challenging, but we just didn’t cope with it.”
The defeat means Saints’ sole focus is now the Gallagher Premiership and they’ll next face an improving side who will also be smarting from their own European exit at the weekend.
For Boyd and his side, there will be no time to dwell on Saturday’s heartache.
“We’ve got Irish here on Friday and they’re a good side,” he added. “They’re going to be a real handful so we have to re-focus quickly, move on and flush out the disappointment.
“From a competition point of view, one is now finished, one never started [Prem Cup], and we’ve got one left, which we’ll be throwing all of our weight behind after tonight.”