Dowson laments Northampton’s first-half inaccuracy

Home » Dowson laments Northampton’s first-half inaccuracy

Northampton Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson said his side’s first-half inaccuracy cost them as they fell short of a memorable comeback against Leinster in the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals.

James Lowe scored a hat-trick as Leinster took control at Croke Park, before George Hendy claimed Saints’ first try in the 58th minute to kickstart their recovery.

Fin Smith converted Tom Seabrook’s score with six minutes remaining to drag Saints to within three points and set up a tense finale, but four-time winners Leinster held on to win 20-17 and reach a third European final in as many years.

Dowson said he was “incredibly proud” of Saints, who gave themselves “too much to do” in their first Champions Cup semi-final since 2011.

“We were not accurate enough in the first half and we gave a very good side a 17-point head start,” Dowson told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“They shut us down at the set-piece efficiently and we couldn’t get the ball away from the breakdown quickly so our attack was stilted.

“This is the first European semi we have been in for some time against a very good Leinster defence and we made some uncharacteristic errors.

“Those things are going to happen but there were a lot of them, but we stuck at it and gave ourselves a chance.”

Premiership leaders Northampton have been praised for their attack this season, but Dowson says he was “frustrated” his side were unable to impose themselves.

He added: “Our defence, our collisions and our effort were outstanding and that allowed us to still be in the game.

“It speaks volumes of the group and it’s clear how invested the players are in each other.

“In the second half, we slowly reeled them back in but we didn’t have enough.”

Saints now turn their attention to their domestic form and securing a home Premiership semi-final.

Dowson says the agonising defeat in Dublin will be another lesson from their recent history they can learn from.

“We knew where we had to be at an emotional and technical level,” he said.

“We weren’t quite there on a technical point of view but we are in a really good place emotionally.

“The quality of our consistency this season has been based on loads of bitter experiences in previous years – away at Saracens [in 2022] and in the Premiership semi-final defeat at Leicester.

“This is another scar to add to it, but one we will be better for.”

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