Director of Rugby Chris Boyd admitted Northampton Saints’ top-four hopes were all but gone after defeat to Newcastle Falcons on Monday evening.
The men in Black, Green and Gold led at Kingston Park through Paul Hill’s second-half try, but saw the hosts turn the game on its head with two scores through Adam Radwan and Chidera Obonna, in the first Gallagher Premiership match to see supporters return to the stands.
Following last weekend’s defeat to Gloucester, nothing but victory would do for Saints in the race for the knockout stages of the competition, with Northampton now lying 11 points behind fourth-placed Harlequins with just three matches remaining.
And Boyd could not hide his disappointment after watching his side’s game plan go awry in the North East against a physical Newcastle side.
“It’s extremely frustrating for us, as we had a game plan which we tried to execute, but we failed to do it and paid the price,” he said.
“Credit to Newcastle, who stopped us playing the way we wanted to – we were sucked into a street fight when we wanted a boxing match, and we just couldn’t wrestle with them.”Chris Boyd, Director of Rugby
“We made too many individual and system errors, gave away too many penalties and coughed the ball up too often, which gave them territory and possession. You just can’t afford to do that.
“They are a very good side at the breakdown and we ended up running the ball into areas where they were waiting to challenge us there.
“When Hilly scored his try and we took the lead, I thought all we needed to do was control the middle of the park, but we failed to do it. All the things we talked about not wanting to do, we did, so credit to them for putting us under pressure.
“I don’t feel like we’ve run out of steam. Everyone is dealt the same set of cards in terms of the timing of the season, and we’ve managed our players’ workloads reasonably well. But we were missing some pretty important players for our side, and it shows in this league you need to have depth in critical positions.”
Saints now have just under a fortnight to prepare for back-to-back home matches against Wasps and Exeter Chiefs, before a trip to Bath in Round 22.
Up to 3,700 supporters will be allowed through the gates at Franklin’s Gardens for the first time since December, with tickets going on general sale later this week, and Boyd is adamant his side can end the campaign on a high note for those in attendance.
He added: “We owe our supporters a courageous performance after a really disappointing couple of weeks. So, it will be a good test for the group to see how we can come back for three more tough games at the end of the season.
“The top four seems to be gone for us now. We had a good three months, and then two poor performances which has ultimately killed off our hopes.
“Somebody would have to lose their last three games for it to happen and we’re massively disappointed around the fact we set ourselves up nicely and have had a pretty tough run home.
“All we’re worried about now is that we’ve got three pretty tough games to finish off the season; Wasps and Exeter at home and then Bath away.
“We need to finish the season with some pride.”