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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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Lack of rhythm too costly against Irish, says Dowson

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson accepted Northampton Saints struggled to build any momentum throughout their disappointing 37 – 22 loss at London Irish. 

The defeat at the Gtech Community Stadium allowed the Exiles to leapfrog Saints in the Gallagher Premiership table following a match they were forced to chase from an early stage. 

That was down to a combination of reasons, including Irish winning most of the collisions, as they capitalised on Saints’ errors, allowing them to build pressure from a string of penalties in the opening 15 minutes. 

While they took advantage, Saints were unable to build on twice dragging themselves back into the picture through tries by Juarno Augustus and Tommy Freeman, with the hosts instead rapidly reasserting their dominance. 

Dowson said: “We knew it was a huge opportunity, we knew we were playing a good side and not enough of our game was of the requisite level.  

“We didn't perform for long periods and it's a bit of a head-scratcher because, at times, we've been really good, but away from home we haven't been.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“We never really got into any sort of rhythm. The first 20 minutes, we gave away a lot of penalties, which really gave them an in and a decent start. 

“We lost a man to a yellow card before half-time [Freeman], which doesn't help, and we give away a try in the first five minutes of the second half. From then on, we're chasing shadows, effectively. 

“We gave ourselves an opportunity with Tommy Freeman's solo effort, but we were under too much pressure to get back into it.” 

Defeat in Brentford has left Saints with no margin for error in their remaining two matches of the regular season, which come after a two-week break caused by their early elimination from European competition. 

London Irish are now three points ahead of them in the standings, meaning the men in Black, Green & Gold must get back to winning ways when leaders Saracens visit cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday 15 April. 

Dowson said: “There's still a mathematical opportunity so we're still going to go for it. 

“We've got a great group of lads and there's never a lack of energy or effort. 

“We lacked some execution in our performance so we've got a week off next week to regroup and regather, then we go hard into it for Saracens and Newcastle to make sure we give ourselves the best opportunity we can.” 

A frustrating evening was compounded by Dowson being forced to make three changes because of injury in the first 50 minutes of the match. 

Hooker Robbie Smith was forced off at the 20-minute mark and he was followed to the sidelines by debutant Trevor Davison during the first half before Fin Smith went off after a blow to the head in the early stages of the second. 

On the surface, Davison’s knock looked the most concerning, with the recent signing from Newcastle Falcons spotted using crutches after the final whistle. 

Dowson hopes appearances prove deceiving, however, saying: “ He [Davison] couldn't continue, which was frustrating because he'd been brilliant in the first week and we were hoping to make his debut a really positive experience. 

“These things happen, it's par for the course and hopefully it won't be too bad.”

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