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Coles calls on Saints to improve on ‘mixed-bag’ performances

Alex Coles insists Northampton Saints have to step up their performances if they want to maintain their winning run, after a nervy ending to Saturday’s 32-31 win over Newcastle Falcons.

Saints made it back-to-back wins in the Gallagher Premiership (and four straight in all competitions) by seeing off Falcons, but they made life tough for themselves at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Rather than the clash being a ‘game of two halves’, both 40 minutes followed the same pattern – in which the men in Black, Green and Gold surged ahead before allowing Newcastle to fight back.

It led to the visitors going into half-time 14-13 ahead, and then giving the majority inside the Gardens a scare as they got back to within a point of Northampton from 32-14 behind in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Coles, who played the full 80 minutes in the back row and was called-up into England’s squad for the upcoming Autumn Nations Series on Monday morning, said: “We really got away with one. I’d love to say we’re playing rugby to entertain the neutrals, but that’s not what we want to be doing.

“We could have lost last week [against Wasps], and could have lost this week. Thankfully we’ve managed to win both, winning ugly.

“But ultimately, over the long run, performances like that are not going to be good enough – and we had pretty stern words with ourselves after the game.”

Alex Coles

“We had a few nice passages of rugby where we got points on the board, and we sort of clung on, but we didn’t have enough control throughout the whole game. We didn’t exit that well, we didn’t look after the ball that well, so a real mixed bag.”

Coles is confident Saints will get to the bottom of why they have not performed at their top level at crucial times in games – which almost cost them against Wasps and Newcastle, and did at Harlequins previously.

Of particular frustration was the fact Northampton allowed themselves to be penalised following the restart on more than one occasion against Falcons, and Coles is adamant the squad will lift their levels in training this week with a trip to Bath on the horizon next weekend.

“It’s about putting a bit of jeopardy on those situations in training,” he said. “So, if we do a kick-off in training, something goes wrong, and we then do it in a game scenario where the same thing happens, we don’t accept it.

“We say: ‘what have we done wrong there?’ and we make sure it doesn’t happen again. You need to train at that standard where things like that don’t go unnoticed, don’t go unmentioned, so that when we come to a match, we know what our processes are.

“We kicked off twice and I think we gave a penalty away once for not rolling away and then once for taking out in the air, and it’s just too easy for them to get out.

“You watch some of the best teams, Saracens are very good at controlling the game and we do things better than Saracens in other areas, but we need to have elements of that in our game to be able to both control a game and play with that fast skill set.”

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