As Northampton Saints have turned their fortunes around in recent weeks, having now won four on the bounce in the Gallagher Premiership, it is clear that much has improved on the defensive side of the ball for the men in Black, Green and Gold.
Saturday’s ‘gritty’ performance in the win away to Exeter Chiefs forced Saints to defend for long periods inside their own territory; 74% of the game was played inside the visitors’ half.
But the challenge was gratefully accepted by a Saints side hungry for work when it comes to keeping the opposition out from the try line. The numbers back up this mentality; despite having to make more than twice as many tackles as their hosts (220 to 90), Saints had a superior success rate with 94% completed.
This defensive success is part of a wider trend as Northampton have more than halved their average number of points and tries conceded, allowing only 16.25 points and 1.75 tries per game during this four-match winning run.
Covid-19 induced disruptions to Saints’ training and playing schedule have sometimes made preparation difficult in recent months, admits the Club’s Defence Coach Ian Vass, but the 39-year-old believes recent high standards have provided the platform for further improvements and positive performances.
“I enjoyed the result,” he said. “It was pretty intense to watch so I didn’t enjoy the end of the game as much.
“But more importantly, the players enjoyed defending. That was the main thing.”Ian Vass, Defence Coach
“There’s been a shift in our mindset. The fact that they come away from that having enjoyed making that many tackles and keeping teams out is definitely a positive we can continue to work on and go forward with.
“It’s been difficult with COVID jumping in and out and trying to build something. It’s been hard trying to move forward, you often have to take another step back every time you come back from a break so that’s been tough and taken longer than it would normally.
“It has been coming; little by little, step by step you get better each week and there will be things to fix this week for sure.
“Hopefully that will make things better for Bath. It’s by no means just a one-off but a step in the right direction of how we want to defend.”