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Phil Dowson ahead of Northampton Saints versus Leicester Tigers.
Adam Gumbs Photography
Phil Dowson ahead of Northampton Saints versus Leicester Tigers.
Adam Gumbs Photography

Dowson: Our discipline made it tricky to get a result

Northampton Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson highlighted his side’s ill-discipline as they were heavily penalised in the 26-17 defeat to Leicester Tigers.

The men in Black, Green and Gold conceded more than 20 penalties at Mattioli Woods Welford Road and received two yellow cards, as they fell short of backing up last season’s away East Midlands Derby victory and extending their Gallagher Premiership winning run to four games.

“We didn’t deal with the breakdown in the first half,” said Dowson. “[Our] discipline in the second half, going down to 13 men, giving 23 penalties away to their 11, makes it very, very tricky to get a result.

“We couldn’t quite get in the game. We didn’t do three things back-to-back, well. There was lots of mistakes in there.

“We were scrapping away and the score at half-time was 9-3, playing poorly, so we were still right in the game. But then around 50 minutes it got away from us.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

Tigers led 12-3 through four Handré Pollard efforts to one Fin Smith penalty in response. With half-an-hour remaining, Saints first lost Sam Matavesi to the sin bin, before Francois van Wyk got the game’s first try. Play restarted with Saints down to 13 men as Ethan Waller, who had just arrived in place of his brother, paid the price for his side’s penalty concessions at the scrum.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Saints struck back through a George Furbank try and could have moved to within two points (with a successful conversion) had Tommy Freeman’s effort minutes later not been chalked off, after referee Karl Dickson ruled that Premiership debutant Henry Pollock had knocked on metres from the line. 

“It’s very hard to see, the referee has made a decision on that,’’ said Dowson on the Freeman disallowed try. “If he touched it, if he didn’t touch it, the camera angles aren’t accurate enough and I can’t tell, that’s one of those things.

“I think we’re more frustrated by going down to 13 players. On 51 minutes it’s 12-3, [Hanro] Liebenberg is sat in the middle of a breakdown and we’ve been penalised for holding him in. I was very surprised with that, we ended up in our corner and that’s when we lost the two yellow cards.

“But we showed great character in terms of dealing with those setbacks, we weren’t playing well but we were actually still in it. In the second half, you get two yellow cards and you’re fighting an uphill battle.”

Pollock arrived into the game in the second half in place of Tom Pearson to make his Premiership debut at the age of just 18.

Dowson added: “He came on and did really well. Henry is a very good player, and we’re excited about him.

”Henry has got a huge future and I thought he showed what he is capable of today, in what was a pretty tough battle in the last 15 minutes of the game.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

Saints’ attention now turns to the visit of Harlequins to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday 24 November as Northampton bid to bounce back to winning ways.

“We need to get back on the horse, because we didn’t quite put our best foot forward on Saturday,” said Dowson. “We gave away too many penalties. We’ve got to make sure we deal with that breakdown threat because Quins will be exactly the same with [Will] Evans, [Alex] Dombrandt et al, we’ve got to make sure we have a good training week.”

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