Northampton Saints’ Director of Rugby Phil Dowson admits the Club’s young guns still have plenty to learn – but insisted he was impressed with the commitment of his side during an opening Premiership Rugby Cup defeat to Ealing Trailfinders.
The men in Black, Green and Gold were beaten 48-22 by the West London side on Sunday. Despite an improved performance after half-time, Saints had given themselves too much to do after the first 40 minutes where they went into the sheds 31-10 down.
Debutant Will Glister scored twice, one either side of half-time, and was unlucky not to celebrate a hat-trick on his first competitive appearance for Northampton as his third effort was ruled out by the TMO for a knock-on in the build-up.
Tom Cruse also got on the scoresheet at the back of a rolling maul, but the young Saints side could not get on top of an experienced and powerful Ealing line-up for long enough during the contest.
“There’s loads of guys in there who are trying their hardest and we love that attitude,” said Dowson.
“That’s the most important thing; they are going absolutely flat out for the Club and for the shirt. When it comes to technical elements, naturally given their age and experience there’s guys with a lot to learn.”Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby
“We’ve also got to start games better and be more physical; we didn’t start with the physicality we’d have liked. We expected them to be physical, but some of these players were playing Under-18s rugby last year, so this is their third game of men’s rugby in an intense competition.
“We can’t be hesitant, and we’ve always got to bear in mind that the physical battle is a key one.
“It was a strong Ealing side, and I don’t think we really showed our best and what we are capable of particularly in the first half.
“After half-time we came out and we showed way more of what we are about. We still weren’t good enough in certain areas, but for a young group to experience that level of rugby I think is very positive.
“There are clearly some individuals that stood out, but also some areas of our game that stood out for the wrong reasons.”
Saints now welcome Cambridge Rugby to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens next weekend for their second-round match in the Cup.
With several weeks still to come before the return of the Gallagher Premiership, and Northampton nursing a few injuries amongst their ranks, Dowson remains happy to keep the faith with his younger players in the Cup to give them exposure to top-level rugby.
He added: “Selection for Cambridge depends a lot on injuries and bits and pieces.
“As we work through the Cup competition, it’s always been a development tournament generally, and we want to play it within that spirit.
“But, at the same time, we want to make sure we are ready to go for when the Premiership returns, so minutes will be managed accordingly and senior players will be drip-fed into the line-up when the time is right.”