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Phil Dowson is Director of Rugby at Northampton Saints
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Phil Dowson is Director of Rugby at Northampton Saints
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Dowson: Bristol defeat a harsh lesson for Saints

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson has called for a positive response from his Northampton Saints players to Friday’s humbling defeat at Bristol Bears.

The match at Ashton Gate was one Saints will want to get out of their system as soon as possible, after they conceded nine tries in a 62-8 reverse in the West Country.

It was their record defeat in the Gallagher Premiership and allowed several of their rivals for a semi-final spot this season to make up ground, including Leicester Tigers (who dropped them down to fourth in the table), Harlequins, and London Irish.

The men and Black, Green & Gold will have a chance to atone for what was their poorest performance of the season when Bath visit cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday evening.

Dowson said: “They’re all big games, Friday was a big game and we blew it. The next thing we can effect is our response and our reaction and how we go against Bath.

“The squad will be good for it; they’re proud lads and they want to represent themselves and the town in the best possible way.

“The performance in Bristol wasn’t a representation of what we are about as a Club, and we need to rectify that quickly.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

Saints were depleted for the trip to Bristol – with a number of faces on the injury list and an influential quintet of Courtney Lawes, David Ribbans, Lewis Ludlam, Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman on international duty with England – but Dowson refused to use that as an excuse for the team’s display.

What did surprise him, however, was how they subsided after falling behind following a tight first 20 minutes of the gamen where the two sides were locked at 3-3.

Dowson said: “I spoke to Fraser Dingwall afterwards and we felt that when they got scores ahead, our heads were down, and that’s not something we’ve encountered a lot to be honest.

“We’ve always battled, we’ve always come back. We’ve shown we can come back from deficits before but that wasn’t apparent on Friday.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

While he will not want it to weigh on their minds, Dowson wants his players to treat such a heavy defeat as a harsh lesson, especially with several of those involved still at the formative stage of their careers.

The result surpassed 50-point losses against Saracens in 2018 and Exeter Chiefs in 2020 and, understandably, the mood post-match was pretty sombre.

Dowson said: “As you can imagine, it was pretty quiet in the changing room afterwards. Nobody wants to be associated with that; that’s not a record any of those players want to have their fingerprints on.

“Unfortunately they do, they’re going to have to deal with that. I’m going to have to deal with that as a Director of Rugby, come to terms with that, and we simply have to be better than that.

“We didn’t turn up, clearly, at times. We started well and then dropped off, and when we went behind, we stopped.

“I think we’ve seen throughout the season our capability, and I think we’ve also seen the chinks in our armour as well, and they were exposed crudely on Friday.”

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