Northampton Saints centre Fraser Dingwall believes the men in Black, Green and Gold’s execution of the game-plan was the key to winning their third match in as many weeks on Sunday.
Dingwall grabbed his side’s fourth and bonus-point clinching score in a resounding 34-19 Gallagher Premiership victory over Exeter Chiefs, with Tommy Freeman, Curtis Langdon and returning England star Alex Mitchell also crossing the whitewash as Saints propelled themselves into fourth in the standings – just three points off top spot.
The away side managed three tries of their own, but Saints’ physical defensive performance, along with clinical attacking play, saw them take the full five points.
The 24-year-old centre was understandably delighted with the victory, largely because the controlled showing from Northampton was evidence of a week of strong preparation to topple high-flying Exeter.
“The best thing about that game for me is that it looked like what we were trying to do, and what we prepared for during the week,” said Dingwall.
“There were so many elements of that game that we got right, and looked how we wanted it to look.”Fraser Dingwall
“Then on top of that, there was some good individual performances. I think Fin Smith was excellent, and our pack again were physical, so we are just building on that.
“They are a very physical but also a very fit side, and defensively now they are flying. They come off the line so quickly so as a backs group, and we did very well to expose them and pick those moments off.
“Up front, we also matched them physically and exceeded them at times, which was fantastic.”
Along with their defensive improvements, Phil Dowson’s side have also been improving their discipline overall throughout the campaign so far.
And Dingwall explained how the positive steps Saints are taking without the ball is contributing towards also lowering the penalty count.
He said: “The discipline goes hand in hand with the defence. If our defence is poor, we are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, which means we are probably going to give away more penalties.
“That is a vicious circle as we will be in our own 22 more and have to defend more. Our defence is massively improving, and Lee Radford is doing a great job in how we get connected and everyone feels a bit more comfortable.
“As a group, we are prepared to defend for long periods of time and then that just aids our discipline, because if we are comfortable enough and prepared to do that, we can just sit in the system, and nobody has to go chasing outcomes."Fraser Dingwall
“One of the things we went after last week was winning the energy battle. Exeter turned up and they have a great energy about their group, and you can hear it and feel it when you play them.
“So, one of the things we were desperate to do was win that energy battle, and by doing that in the first 30 minutes, we had so many opportunities and built a score quite early. I’m just really proud of the group and that performance so hopefully we can just kick on into next week which is a massive one.”
There’s no let up for Saints as they travel to Mattioli Woods Welford Road for the first East Midlands Derby of the season on Saturday to face Leicester Tigers.
Dingwall added: “We will speak at the start of the week about what the Derby means to the Club, and I don’t think we will go away from that.
“That is going to be the driving force for the whole of next week; what this game means to the Club, to the supporters, to this Town – that is the motivation.
“Leicester are a very good side. They have had a lot of players back from the World Cup and they may have lost this weekend, but those boys are only going to massively improve their chances. We know it’s going to be a hard challenge, but it is one we are very excited for.”