Director of Rugby Phil Dowson admitted to feeling like “a broken record” after Northampton Saints’ discipline cost them during their 34 – 19 defeat at Gloucester on Saturday.
Saints slipped behind their hosts and into sixth after Round 12 of the Gallagher Premiership, with a brace for Tommy Freeman and a late James Ramm try the only bright spots from their trip to Kingsholm.
It was not the first time this season the men in Black, Green & Gold have been unable to keep the penalty count against them down, and when Northampton’s cumulative infringements saw captain Lewis Ludlam head to the sin bin in the second half their fate was all-but sealed in the West Country.
And, for Dowson, those discipline issues are a significant factor in the side’s habit of putting themselves under pressure.
He said: “I seem to be talking a lot after games about how frustrating it is, but again we gave ourselves lots of opportunities to score points and didn’t convert that pressure.
“Then in the second half discipline issues raise their ugly head again and we got on the wrong side of the penalty count, and a yellow card [for Ludlam].
“We are going to give penalties away at times, it’s then about how we recover from that, that we don’t give the next one away or don’t give the ball away after that.”Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby
“Not doubling up on errors and giving soft penalties away, or avoidable penalties, would be a good thing to focus on.”
Saints’ frustrations came to the surface in the closing stages when backchat following a scrum penalty against them led to them being marched back 10 metres and allowed Gloucester’s Santiago Carreras to knock over the final points of the match.
It was the last of 15 penalties the visitors conceded during a disappointing evening in the Gloucester, a figure put into sharp perspective by the fact their hosts gave away just six in return.
“It’s a broken record,” Dowson continued. “I think I’m being honest when I’m saying there are periods of our play where we look really good, but there are also long periods where we don’t look good enough.
“It’s trying to figure out how you change those momentum swings, how you deal with the discipline issues and how you get back on track.”
What added to Dowson’s frustrations is that Saints were able to show glimpses of what they are capable of, with Freeman rounding off sweeping attacks to score two tries in four minutes to put them 12-7 ahead midway through the first half.
However, as the Director of Rugby has seen before this season, Saints were unable to maintain their best levels for long enough in the game.
“We do some really good stuff going forward and we’re very good at getting from halfway and around our 10-metre line into the opposition 22,” Dowson continued.
“But when we’re there, we’re profligate with the ball, we don’t look after it enough, we don’t convert enough of our pressure into points.
“There’s one intercept, one turnover, one bobbled ball that gets knocked on; there’s always different opportunities that we don’t convert, which means that the scoreboard doesn’t change.
“That puts the pressure back on us and then we give a couple of penalties away, they get a maul going and that’s how momentum swings.
“We need to convert more of those opportunities better and not give so many penalties away.”