Northampton Saints may go into next weekend’s semi-final showdown against Exeter as underdogs, but lock Courtney Lawes insists his side can shock the Chiefs on their own patch.
The men in Black, Green and Gold will travel to Sandy Park for the second time in as many weeks, as they qualified for the knockout stages of the Gallagher Premiership despite a 40-21 defeat to top-of-the-table Exeter.
"We’re just excited to get back out on the pitch next week and put it all out there."Courtney Lawes
Piers Francis, Rory Hutchinson and Cobus Reinach all scored sensational tries in a pulsating first half in the West Country, but with the scores level at half-time, Chiefs pulled away after the break with relentless phase play.
Lawes admits Northampton’s ill-discipline was the difference in the second 40 but is adamant that Saints have more than enough firepower to upset the apple cart when they lock horns with Exeter again next week.
“There’s certainly plenty we can take from the game that makes us think we can turn this result around next week,” he said.
“During the first half we went really well but were just a bit ill-disciplined which kept them in it, and then in the second half we lost the error battle which just swung the tide in their favour.
“We’re thrilled to make it through as it would be a really gutting result for us if that was the last performance we put in this season – we’re just excited to get back out on the pitch next week and put it all out there.
“There’s been plenty of positive change at the Club; we’re really tight as a group of people and that really helps when you’re out there fighting with good teams like Exeter, plus we know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of our gameplan.
“Obviously we didn’t do that today because of our ill-discipline, but that’s not the worst thing in the world to have to try and put right in the space of one week – we know where we went wrong.”
Northampton’s league tally of 56 points was enough to secure a return to the Premiership’s play-off rounds for the first time since 2015, after Wasps beat Harlequins at the Ricoh Arena.
A Twickenham Final date with either Saracens or Gloucester Rugby awaits if they can find a way past the Chiefs next weekend, and Lawes is under no illusions that if that is to happen, Northampton will have to put in the hard yards this week.
He added: “Exeter are a really good team and we just know that we can’t afford to give them that amount of field position or time with the ball again otherwise they are going to score plenty of points.
“That pick-and-go game is hard to play against. We only managed to stop it once today so we need to take a look at that and work hard in the week.
“But we don’t mind being underdogs at all; we beat them on our patch earlier in the season and if we do execute our gameplan properly and get it right then we can beat anyone.”
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