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Northampton Saints

Phil Dowson: “We felt we had enough quality in the group”

Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Phil Dowson has detailed his disappointment at his side’s 43-12 defeat to Bath in their final regular season game.  

The Saints already booked a home semi-final last weekend, and named a much changed squad to that which beat Gloucester 90-0. Only Angus Scott-Young and Ollie Sleightholme retained their places in Dowson’s side, however they still named a squad containing the likes of Lewis Ludlam, Rory Hutchinson (if out of position) and Burger Odendaal.

Speaking to the media after the game, Dowson said: “It’s frustrating and a bit disappointing because we felt that, obviously we’ve made a lot of changes, but we felt we had enough quality in the group to put up more of a challenge.”

He added: “We didn’t come out of the blocks the first 20 minutes. We didn’t look after the ball, lost a lot of collisions and when you concede straight after half-time it’s a long way back.”

Despite today’s defeat, Northampton also finish top of the Premiership table for the first time since 2015, however Dowson is fully focusing on the challenge of Saracens rather than applauding his side.

“I know in Rugby League they have the League Leaders Shield, but that’s not relevant in what we’re doing. We’ve got to make sure that all of our energy is focused on recovering from that and making sure we take that on the chin, and also them preparing for Saturday’s semi-final. People don’t remember who finished off the table, they remember who picked up the trophy.”

Phil Dowson on facing Saracens in the play-offs

Phil Dowson-Credit: IMAGO

Northampton’s top of the table finish does book them a home semi-final, where they face defending champions Saracens.

Dowson’s side have already beaten Saracens twice this season; but the Saints DoR is fully aware of the threat the Londoners pose to his side’s title hopes.

“We know the talent, we know the history, we know the players leaving Saracens; so there’s obviously going to be some narrative around that. We’ve got to make sure that we focus entirely on our performance and making sure any lessons we take out today and what we’ve built throughout the season come to the fore.”

This will also be the third successive semi-final between the sides, but with this year’s edition taking place at Franklin’s Gardens on a Friday night, Dowson is looking forward to the occasion.

“I think it’ll be good. The Friday night adds a little bit to it in terms of the energy around it and the lights. This season too, particularly the second half of the season, Franklin’s Gardens has been absolutely jumping; so it should be a lively atmosphere.”