After a short turnaround from the Harlequins game on Sunday, it was time to host Exeter at the gardens for what was a huge game. Any time the top of the table comes to your home patch, it’s always exciting as a player to try and put down a marker against them. It’s been a frustrating restart for us, performances haven’t been great and we have struggled to hit the ground running. So going into this game, we knew the magnitude of what it was worth.
After a tough opening 5-10 minutes with the ball staying in play for long periods. Exeter scored two tries in the space of a few minutes, against the play which made things hard for us to come back from. Again with great belief and determination from the boys, we managed to get ourselves back into the game with a David Ribbans try underneath the posts. We put a lot of effort into our defence after this try and finally we managed to force a turnover in the middle of the pitch, 2 quick passes got the ball wide and we were able to start up a counter attack. 2 phases later James Fish ran a great line between two Exeter players and made a bust up the middle, Henry Taylor able to get there in support which got us back into the game.
Going into halftime with a score line 12-14, it was so important for us to get the next points on the board. 5 minutes in the second half we forced another turnover on the edge in our own half. Another quick counter, gave Rory Hutchinson the ball in space and he was able to do what he does so well and take a back row on, making a break on the width. Finally the ball came to David Ribbans to finish off a well worked try, seeing us take a 19-14 lead. After this period, unfortunately I picked up an injury to my foot which saw me have to leave the pitch. I watched on and the boys fought hard for the last 20 minutes. It’s always hard against Exeter as they are a team who thrive off ill discipline to put themselves in positions to score. Steenson had an easy penalty opportunity to take things to 19-17. 10 minutes later, we conceded another penalty in the middle of the pitch giving Steenson a chance to put us back in our 22. Off the maul Exeter moved the ball wide and picked down the short side which saw Tom O’flaherty score in the corner. Our lack of discipline and accuracy has been our downfall in the previous few games and it didn’t help in the closing 15 minutes of this game either. We were unable to fight our way back into the game, losing 19-22 at home.
For large chunks of the game on Friday, we played some of our best rugby. Moving the ball in classic Northampton fashion around the pitch and making Exeter work hard to defend us but our accuracy and execution needs to improve, especially in times when we are under the most pressure. As a player the most frustrating thing is, the results since the restart aren’t down to a lack of determination and effort. For us as a team, we have to find a way of working hard but working smart with calm heads. We have 3 games left now in the Premiership, and we need to win all of them in order to finish the season off well.
We travel down to Bristol on Tuesday night for a must win game. Fingers crossed we dig in and get a much needed away win!
Thanks for your support and hope everyone is well.