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Northampton explain failure to capitalise against 12-man Irish

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Northampton director of rugby Phil Dowson admitted his team played far better against 15 men than they did against twelve during their 38-22 victory against London Irish. The Exiles began the second half with Tom Pearson, Henry Arundell and Rob Simmons all in the sin bin but came through that daunting period unscathed due to Saints, without an ill Dan Biggar, trying to force play too much.

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It was only after the visitors were restored to full strength that the accuracy of their game returned and they recorded their first win since Dowson succeeded Chris Boyd during the summer. Dowson said: “We didn’t really take advantage of the numerical advantage.

“We weren’t clinical enough, we didn’t keep hold of the ball and we forced things, which is frustrating but what we did do is we stuck to our guns when it got back to 15 apiece and we managed to get on top. Big parts of our game came back, but it is tough playing with twelve guys – we have done it in the past a couple of seasons ago and it does take it out of you.

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“That fatigue element was also part of it in the last 20 minutes. We could have been way better in that area, but we got our game back on plan and we managed to capitalise. I don’t know what illness it was but he [Biggar] phoned me this morning saying he wasn’t in a fit state to play. It was disappointing he wasn’t playing, but he should be OK.”

Northampton led 10-0 at half-time through Juarno Augustus’ try and they eventually extended their advantage through second-half scores by Ollie Sleightholme and Alex Mitchell. London Irish threatened a comeback following a Will Joseph effort and a penalty try, but George Furbank put the game out of reach before Ollie Hassell-Collins’ consolation.

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Their director of rugby Declan Kidney said: “There were a lot of things there that were in our control that we can do better. There were a couple of momentum swings in the game too, so the two of those things combined probably cost us as the game went on.

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“It’s well within our grasp to be that much better and fair play to Northampton, we knew they were going to be well up for it, but there are learnings for us to take. (Playing with 12 men) does take the energy out of the boys around the pitch.

“You could say there was a four-point swing in that nine minutes, which isn’t the worst thing with three men (in the sin bin). They only scored at the end of the three men coming back on and in the minute before that, we can probably control those moments better.”

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