Ethan Waller admitted that Northampton Saints disappointed themselves with how they started again Bath Rugby, despite eventually winning the Premiership Rugby Cup clash 43-42 on Saturday.
Despite sending Tommy Freeman, Waller and Trevor Davison over in the first half the men in Black, Green and Gold found themselves 23 points adrift after clinical attack from Bath saw them score six tries in the first 45 minutes.
But Saints wrestled their way back into the clash, scoring 17 unanswered points as they sent Freeman, Curtis Langdon and Tom Seabrook over the tryline, before a 70th minute hattrick score from Freeman and Fin Smith’s successful conversion secured the one-point win.
Waller – who was introduced to the game earlier than expected when injury forced Emmanuel Iyogun from the field after just four minutes – was disappointed in Saints’ start and insisted that the side must do better as the Gallagher Premiership draws closer.
He said: “In the Premiership, there’s loads of quality players, quality teams so we’ve got to make sure we can compete as best we can. I think we did that, especially in the second half we did particularly well but clearly that first half was disappointing and there was a lot we could have done better.
“We are disappointed, the first half wasn’t us whatsoever. I think the way we played was really, really disappointing at times.”Ethan Waller
“But we came out in that second half and our collisions were better, the way we managed the game was a lot better but we’ve got to figure out a way to make sure that we come out of the blocks firing.
“We took too long to get into that game and that’s something that this season especially we’ve really got to improve on.
“We know we’ve got the quality, you saw that in the second half that we can get it right. But it’s just about how we do that from minute one and not take 40 minutes and a half-time to regroup to really come out firing.
“We’re not going to have the luxury of being able to score that many points in the second half of games often in the Premiership, it’s too tight a league. So how we start is going to be crucial for us and it’s something that we’re going to take a long look at over the next few weeks.”
But Waller was also quick to highlight the positives of the afternoon, praising teammate Freeman and his hattrick-scoring abilities.
“He’s a very good player,” Waller continued. “I’m probably not going to say that to his face, I won’t boost his ego any more but he is a quality player. We’re lucky to have him.
“Personally, I think he was unlucky to miss out on that World Cup selection but having him here is always going to be a positive for us. He can do some pretty special stuff.”
With just one match left in Saints’ Premiership Rugby Cup campaign – as Doncaster Knights come to town next Sunday – attentions are quickly turning to the upcoming Gallagher Premiership season – where Northampton make the trip to last season’s finalists Sale Sharks in the first round.
The men in Black, Green and Gold made it to their second semi-final in as many years last term but Waller and his team have their sights set on going at least one better this time around.
“We know that last year we fell short of our target in the Premiership,” Waller said. “That’s really our big aim, that and Europe.
“We’ve obviously had a few disappointing results in [the Cup] tournament but I think going forward, next week is another different challenge in Doncaster but we’ve got to use it as a real springboard and build some momentum as we enter the Premiership.”