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Plenty for Saints to work on in busy week, says Ludlam

Club captain Lewis Ludlam admitted Northampton Saints must learn how to deal with pressure more effectively in the wake of their East Midlands Derby defeat against Leicester Tigers.

Five minutes into the second half, life was looking rosy for the men in Black, Green and Gold after tries from Alex Mitchell, Tommy Freeman and Alex Coles saw them surge into a 21-10 lead against the Gallagher Premiership champions.

However, from that point Tigers dominated possession and territory, and were helped along the way by a steady stream of penalties awarded against Saints.

While Northampton held out admirably, three yellow cards eventually told in the last ten minutes as the visitors seized bragging rights by crossing the whitewash four times while their hosts were depleted in numbers – and with two matches in five days ahead this week (against London Irish in the Premiership Rugby Cup before a return to league action at Harlequins), Ludlam insists the side will be focused on putting things right.

“At half-time, we were well in the game,” said Ludlam. “I thought we played in the right areas of the pitch, we really put our game on them and survived a few tough moments in our 22.

“The difference from the first half to the second half is that if you give teams opportunities to attack you in your 22 through ill-discipline, and when they put pressure on after you make mistakes in failing to exit, they’re going to score points. A team like Leicester are clinical. 

“What we did do with the ball was good, but how we exit and how we get out of our 22 when teams are putting a load of pressure on is a definite work-on.”

Lewis Ludlam

The game was Ludlam’s first of the season, after he was rested for the first two matches of the campaign following his efforts for England during their successful summer tour of Australia.

To say it was an intense reintroduction for the back rower would be an understatement, with Ludlam saying: “It was straight back into the frying pan, I couldn’t have asked for a better one to come back for.

“You get a little bit extra out of yourself when you’re playing Leicester, so when the lungs are burning you can fall back on that.

“It was a good one to come back for, even though the performance wasn’t great. I feel good and I’m ready to go again.”

Although he was one of the three Saints players to be shown a yellow card in the final quarter of the game, loosehead prop Emmanuel Iyogun was singled out for praise by the skipper.

That was down to the 21-year-old putting in a huge shift against a powerful Leicester front row, coming back onto the field when his replacement Ethan Waller suffered an injury just three minutes after entering the action.

Ludlam added: “We’ve always been there emotionally, and Manny is a prime example of that.

“Coming off, then coming back on in difficult circumstances and putting his body on the line, we’ve got heaps of that spirit and fight in the team.

“What we are lacking is that little bit of a clinical edge to get out of our 22 or to kill a restart.

“I don’t think this team is short on heart at all, it’s just those little details that we’re not getting right consistently enough.”

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