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Dowson: ‘I knew there was going to be a response’

Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Phil Dowson highlighted his side’s explosive start as being key to a 41-30 victory over Saracens.

The men in Black, Green and Gold raced into a 17-point lead in the first quarter through tries from Alex Coles and James Ramm that set the tone on Friday evening at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

It was a near perfect response to the disappointing return to Gallagher Premiership action last weekend when Bristol Bears ended Saints’ 10-game winning run in all competitions at Ashton Gate.

“It came from last week!” said Dowson, referring to Saints’ start. “You have always got to credit Bristol, they came out of the blocks and we didn’t and this week we knew the onus was one us to do likewise. It wasn’t quite there last week and you saw it from the word go this week.”

Saracens pulled themselves back to within seven points at the break but the second half belonged to Saints as Ramm added a second try along with Tommy Freeman and Ollie Sleightholme also getting over the line to secure maximum points.

“Because we have got a good group and we know the group,  I knew there was going to be a response,” added Dowson. “You don’t know what Saracens are going to bring,  you could tell from the training week and the group that we have and the warm up that we were ready to go.

“Sam [Vesty] actually said when we came back in that ‘oh my gosh I hope we are not too over the top’ but, we weren’t, we were disciplined with it, so I was really pleased.”

Phil Dowson, Northampton Saints Director of Rugby

“You knew there was going to be something, players aren’t stupid and coaches aren’t stupid, everyone was disappointed last week. You sit on the bus back from Bristol and you’re frustrated, and then this week we are fine. What we have got to make sure is we don’t just become a team that yo-yos like that where you need something to give you a kick to get that performance. We need to make sure we continue that and what drives that going into Munster now.”

Fly-half Smith provided the final pass for three of the five tries and was faultless from the tee kicking 16 points to win the television man-of-the-match award.

“This time last year, when it wasn’t a decongested calendar, he was in and out of that [England] squad and learning how to cope with not being involved and coming back to a club etc,” said Dowson. “But he is a year further down, he has a year of experience. He has got caps, he is way more confident in that environment. He is better at dealing with going from the international stage to this stage, and I think you saw today how he leads that group. 

“The first meeting we had on Monday after Bristol, he sort of summed up in three sentences where technically, tactically and emotionally where we need to be. Courts jumped on it in the forwards one, and he said that is pretty much the debrief done.

“Fin, we talk about it all the time, his maturity and his game understanding is really impressive.”

The victory not only kept Saints top of the table with four rounds of Gallagher Premiership action remaining, but it also secured a home-and-away double over the reigning champions following December’s 18-12 success at the StoneX Stadium in December.

Dowson added: “It is good for confidence based on how good a team they are and you saw the amount of quality there is within their group and what they have done in the past. Maybe it is a yard stick in terms of that.”

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