Northampton Saints captain Lewis Ludlam has challenged his teammates to use the disappointment of a Gallagher Premiership semi-final defeat for a second season running as motivation to make them stronger.
Saracens proved too strong on Saturday as they made the most of home advantage to win 38-15 at the StoneX Stadium, despite a brave second-half showing from Saints.
The difference between that game and their loss at Leicester Tigers last year was Sarries giving them a mountain to climb in the first half, as the teams turned around with the hosts leading 21-3.
It means the men in Black, Green & Gold will be left to wonder what might have been when Saracens face Sale Sharks in the final at Twickenham in two weeks’ time, on a stage where Ludlam believes they can one day perform.
Ludlam said: “Two [defeats in] semi-finals on the bounce is hard to swallow, but we’ve got to pick ourselves up.
“Two years of hurt is just building up for next season now, so we’ve got to use that and take it up ready for next year.
“We can’t come in next year feeling sorry for ourselves, we’ve got to build on where we’ve left off here.
“We’ve taken some steps forward this season, but unfortunately there are still bits of our game which are going amiss, so it’s important now that we pick ourselves back up and we gear up ready to go again.”Lewis Ludlam
The match in north London was perhaps symptomatic of Saints on the road this season, as they were made to pay for a slow start, with Saracens the last team you want to give opportunities to.
Tries in the second half from Alex Mitchell and James Ramm closed the gap to 24-15 and gave them a fighting chance going into the final stages, but a penalty try awarded to Saracens for a collapsed maul with ten minutes to go effectively killed off their comeback.
Ludlam said: “We’re Saints, we understand that we’re always in games because of the amount of points we can score.
“We understand we will always be an attacking threat, but the part of the game we need to sort out is that we don’t want to be clawing our way back.
“We want to be attacking teams and putting our game on them right from minute one to give us the best opportunity to go and dominate teams for 80 minutes, so we left ourselves too much to do.”
Ludlam certainly won’t be resting on his laurels as, one way or another, he is set for a big 2023/24 campaign, especially with a potential second World Cup of his career in the offing.
When asked what the summer has in store for him, Ludlam said: “I’ll get back to training next week at some point to get myself fit and ready to go.
“I’ll give myself a few days [off] then get myself fit and ready to go for potentially a World Cup camp, and potentially get myself ready for preseason and the start of a Premiership campaign as well.
“Whatever that looks like, I’ll put myself in the best position to be ready to go again.
“I’ve loved every season of it this season. It’s been tough but that’s been enjoyable.
“We’ve left ourselves a lot to do, we’ve been under pressure at times, but I’ve enjoyed the fight that these lads are showing, and our ability to come back and put ourselves back in a play-off position.
“We just want to build on what we’ve left off here and hopefully next season will be successful.”