Centre Fraser Dingwall believes the preparation and high level of training ahead of Friday’s 66-5 win at Newcastle Falcons paid dividends, ultimately earning Northampton Saints a place in the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals.
Saints travelled to Kingston Park last Friday with only one away win to their name all season, and with poor performances at Bristol Bears and London Irish on their travels in March still fresh in supporters’ minds.
They had to recover from conceding early to Adam Radwan’s try, but they answered with aplomb scoring ten unanswered tries to rack up their biggest win of the season.
The thumping victory meant only London Irish could overhaul them in the race for the Premiership play-offs, but the Exiles’ defeat at leaders Saracens on Sunday sealed Phil Dowson’s side place in the top four for the second season running.
Dingwall said: “If you look at the Falcons game, we didn’t actually do anything ridiculous – there were obviously a couple of moments of individual brilliance, but it wasn’t like we were chucking offloads and all sorts was going on.
“It was just a great example of us putting our game on the pitch over and over again, and when we get that right and you challenge defences for 80 minutes, they’re going to leak points.
“It’s really good for us, we’re really pleased and it’s off the back of three or four weeks of really good preparation.”Fraser Dingwall
Dingwall echoed the praise of Director of Rugby Phil Dowson on how Saints produced one of their most committed defensive displays of the season, off the back of some typically lethal attacking play.
He said: “We came into the game knowing they’ve got a very dangerous back three and in moments when the ball was loose and when there were turnovers was when they could hurt us.
“They did that in the first play, but we weren’t fazed by that, we just knew we had to get back to our game.
“To be honest, the moments we’ve really got to speak about, more than the tries, were George Furbank getting back when they chipped and chased, Mitch making a tackle in the corner, they are the moments that mean so much to us.
“It’s exactly the same as scoring a try at the other end, if not more, because it takes energy away from them.”
Dingwall insisted the performance of the team – which was arguably the most complete of the entire season so far – came at a time when it really mattered.
But the centre did also single out the performance of scrum-half Alex Mitchell, who recently impressed off the bench for England during the Six Nations and showed why he is such a key player for Saints.
In addition to his near-miraculous tackle on Radwan during the first half, Mitchell scored two tries and was the launchpad for many of Saints’ most dangerous attacks.
“He’s obviously a special player, so much of our attack revolves around him and the tempo he brings to attacks just challenges defences,” added Dingwall.
“If you don’t have time to get set, on top of the fact we can get our shape and challenge people anyway, you’ve then got Mitch acting as a threat in terms of the speed but then kicking around the base. He’s just a very good player.”