3 weeks of Premiership action
It has been a slightly frustrating 3 weeks of premiership rugby for us at Northampton Saints. We have seen the highs of a brilliant all round team performance against wasps, and the lows of a last minute loss against Newcastle. For me, the inconsistency in our performance has come from a few things. The first thing is that we aren’t getting right is the balance between playing fast, exciting maybe slightly more risky rugby and playing boring rugby. When I say boring rugby I mean 2 phases in your own half then kick the ball long and trust your defence will win you the game. Don’t get me wrong, with out a doubt there is a time and a place in the game for that style of rugby, but finding the balance between the two is crucial.
The first game of the block of premiership fixtures came at home against a struggling wasps team. They had lost the last couple, and had a few International players not available for selection. This was in fact, similar to us. We were missing Dylan, Courtney and Dan Biggar. It turned out to be a beautiful day at Franklins Gardens, and the faithful were in full voice as usual. This was made even better by the fast, flowing and clinically accurate rugby we put on the pitch. We managed to break down wasps, squeeze them and effectively take our chances. For those that were at the game, they would have seen big Taqele Naiyaravoro causing havoc to the wasps defence. He was making breaks down the wing, through the middle, you name it he was doing it. It was a pleasure to play along side him and even more exciting knowing there is more to come from the giant man. We came away from that afternoon with the full 5 points and wasps came away with 0.
We then moved onto Sale away. This is a notoriously hard fixture in the premiership. They are known for having a big set of forwards who love a scrap. Coupled with a backline that are as dangerous as they come when they are on song. It was a cold afternoon, and a day when getting the balance right between playing lots of rugby in your own half or kicking it long and making the opposition play from deep was key. Unfortunatley for us, we got this balance wrong and it played into Sales hands. The game was tight throughout with sale having had 2 disallowed tries which kept us in the game. With two minutes to go we were down by 8 points with a penalty to bring us back to a losing bonus point. We kicked the penalty, and had one last chance to try and win the match. However, it was not meant to be for us that day and we left the north of England with a losing bonus point. Not the end of the world, but we felt like we didn’t put our best foot forward and that we could have gotten more out of the game.
Rugby is a great game. The main reason for me is that you get a chance to redeem yourself of all your wrong doings the weekend just gone next week. We saw bottom of the table side Newcastle come to Northampton to see if they could turn us over on our home patch. We started the game very well, making breaks and looking like the more threatening team. We just could not hold onto the ball. Every time we broke, we threw it on the floor, or gave it back to them. It is very hard to gain any momentum when this happens and it allows the other team to get into the game. We were leading by 8 points with 15 minutes to go and it looked like we were going to close the game out. This wasn’t to be as Newcastle kicked a long range penalty to bring them 5 points behind. With the last play of the game and about 3 minutes into the red clock, they managed to sneak under the posts with a pick and go to bring them level. Toby Flood knocked the ball over the posts and Newcastle left with a 2 point victory. Very much a snatch and grab. We were all very frustrated that we couldn’t close out the game and again it was a case of us not getting the balance right in the final moments of the game.
This weekend we are back to the European competition were we take on the Dragons, and then following that we travel to Timisoara Saracens. These two games are massive for us to gain some momentum back, and hopefully give us a chance of getting a semi final in Europe.
As always, thank you for your support. We will continue to graft away and hopefully some more positive results are around the corner!