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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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Rugby

Dowson: Saints have to be relentless in the face of pressure

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson believes Northampton Saints created problems for themselves at times during a 41-21 defeat against East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers. 

Saints were unable to capitalise on a superb start at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, as two tries in as many minutes from Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman allowed them to open up a 14-3 lead in the men in Black, Green and Gold’s 250th meeting with Tigers. 

They proved to be just as switched on in defence as they had been in attack as they were pinned in their own 22 in the closing stages of the first half. 

However, this eventually led to Freddie Steward (who went on to score a hat-trick) going over just before the break – and although Alex Coles’ try extended Saints’ lead early in the second half, it proved to be a sign of things to come. 

“I thought in the first half we saw a lot of what our game plan wanted to be and when we created opportunities, we took those,” said Dowson.

“Towards the end of the first half, we gave them chances in our 22 and eventually that pressure told, and we didn’t manage to get away from it when we did have opportunities to do so.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“There was a line-out we threw over the top, there was an offload off a turnover scrum, so there were a couple of things where we didn’t manage to clear our lines effectively and if you do that against Leicester, you are going to get punished.”

Saints also paid the price for getting on the wrong side of referee Karl Dickson, who penalised them heavily during the second half, leading to three home players being sent to the sin bin. 

Juarno Augustus first departed in the 64th minute and he was followed to the sidelines by Emmanuel Iyogun and Mitchell as Leicester ratcheted up the pressure.

The Gallagher Premiership champions ruthlessly exploited the gaps left behind, scoring four tries in the final ten minutes to snatch a victory in a match where they had long trailed. 

Dowson said: “When you put a side under pressure, they’ll give penalties away – and if you give enough penalties away, you get yellow cards. 

“You start doing things you wouldn’t necessarily do, so pressure will lead to ill-discipline, ill-discipline will lead to punishment, and that’s what we saw today. 

“We were under a ton of pressure at the set-piece, sometimes in the air, and in terms of territory as well. All those different things have an impact and that leads to that situation.”

Saints’ cause also was not helped by Courtney Lawes having to go off following a HIA early in the second half, and replacement loosehead Ethan Waller being forced off with another not long after stepping from the bench. 

Despite this, Dowson is hoping his players will learn what they need to from a game where they, for a long time, looked set to avenge the three Derby defeats inflicted by the Tigers last season. 

He added: “It’s about making sure we understand how important it is to be relentless in what we do – and if we go away from that, and there’s one part of our game that’s not necessarily up to scratch, we’ll be punished.

“We thought we were in a decent place after half-time, but we continued to allow ourselves to be put under pressure.

“It’s definitely something we can address – it’s not a fatal problem, it’s not final, we’ve just got to make sure we’re better next time and learn from what is ultimately a disappointing performance.”

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