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Phil Dowson refuses to blame referee for Northampton’s loss

David Ribbans on the charge - PA

Northampton boss Phil Dowson insisted it was Saints’ dismal first half and not a dubious refereeing decision that underpinned their 38-15 defeat in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final.


Saracens were outstanding as they ran in five tries to set up a Twickenham appointment with either Leicester or Sale in a fortnight’s time.

But wing Sean Maitland was lucky to stay on the pitch after clattering into George Furbank as the rivals contested a kick 25 seconds into the game.

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Maitland appeared to strike Furbank’s head with his elbows but referee Karl Dickson issued only a penalty and to rub salt into the wound the Scotland’s international scored Saracens’ first two tries.

“The referee didn’t give it. I presume the TMO looked at it and made a decision that it was a rugby contest and therefore play on,” Dowson said.

“We’ll have to look at it again. I don’t know where Maitland was looking. I don’t know where he was in conjunction with the ball in the air. Whether I agree with it or not is irrelevant.

“You need to be lucky here and whether that’s an element of the luck or not I don’t know.

“A couple of things didn’t go our way but I’m sure Sarries would say the same thing. That was one of those decisions that didn’t go our way, rightly or wrongly.


“Everyone will have an opinion on it. But it was still 15 a side and we conceded three tries in the first half.

“In a semi-final against the best team in the league, you’re going to struggle, no matter what decision is made by the referee.”

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall felt Dickson had made the correct call.

When asked if Maitland was fortunate to stay on the pitch, McCall replied: “No. I thought it was a good decision.

“Sean probably didn’t need to do what he did, which is to pull out because he’s going to compete for the ball. I thought it was a good decision.”


Northampton staged a fightback in the third quarter but Saracens showed resolve before hitting back with a late penalty try and Max Malins touchdown.

“I thought it was our strongest defensive performance for years. It’s always been the DNA of the club and that’s as good as we’ve been for a while to be honest,” McCall said.

“That laid the foundation for the victory and the performance. We were physical and got control of a very good attacking team. The players felt in control.

“You’re not going to have a semi-final your own way all the time. I was very pleased with how we dealt with it. We were emotionally consistent and strong.

“We got on with the next thing, put energy into the next thing. We did our jobs and got back to basics. These things happen in finals and semi-finals and we dealt with it really well.”


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