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Leinster 20-17 Northampton Saints: Phil Dowson laments ‘frustrating’ first half


Image source, Getty Images

  • author, Manteg Man
  • Role, BBC sports journalist

Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Phil Dawson said his side’s inaccuracy in the first half cost them as they failed to pull off a memorable comeback against Leinster in the Investec Champions Cup semi-final.

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

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

Dawson said he was “incredibly proud” of Saints, who gave themselves “a lot to do” in their first Champions League semi-final since 2011.

“We weren’t precise enough in the first half and gave a very good team a 17-point lead,” Dawson told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“They stopped us at the set-piece efficiently and we couldn’t get the ball away on the break quickly so our attack was sloppy.

“This is the first European half we’ve played in some time against a very good Leinster defense and we made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

“These things will happen, but there were a lot of them, but we stuck with it and gave ourselves a chance.”

Premier League leaders Northampton Their attack has been praised this season, but Dawson says he was “frustrated” that his side were unable to impose themselves.

He added: “Our defense, our collisions, and our efforts were wonderful, and this allowed us to stay in the match.”

“It speaks volumes about the group and it’s clear how much the players care about each other.

“In the second half we managed to bring them back slowly but we didn’t have enough.”

Saints now turn their attention to their domestic form and secure a home Premier League semi-final.

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

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

“We’re not there technically but we’re in a really good place emotionally.

“The quality of our consistency this season has built on a lot of bitter experiences in previous years – away from Saracens [in 2022] And in the Premier League semi-final against Leicester.

“This is another scar to add to that, but it’s a scar we’ll be better at.”



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