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'We failed': Northampton coach's stark admission after Ulster defeat

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Northampton forwards coach Phil Dowson insisted Northampton would not give up on their Heineken Champions Cup campaign despite being left with a mountain to climb by a 24-20 defeat to Ulster at Franklin’s Gardens.

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Dowson was standing in on the day for director of rugby Chris Boyd, who this week was suspended for two matches following ill-advised comments about a referee in an earlier game.

The defeat left Northampton with just two points from their three European fixtures, with only an away game at Racing 92 to come in the pool stage.

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The result also marred a special day for Courtney Lawes, who was making his 250th appearance for the club and was replaced with 15 minutes to play.

Dan Biggar and Rory Hutchinson scored Northampton’s tries. Biggar kicked two penalties and a conversion, with George Furbank also adding a two-pointer.

Dowson said: “You never say never but it will be a tough ask at Racing, but we will make a tough run at it.

“It was frustrating to concede early as it left us with a mountain to climb. We left ourselves with too much to do to get back into it.

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“Courtney was winded earlier in the game, but he was exhausted and he’s experienced enough to tell us when he’s done, so we brought on some fresh legs.

“We wanted to make it a big day for him, but we failed on that account as we didn’t quite manage it.

“Crucially, all our European games have seen us start poorly. There are big lessons for our squad to learn, but they are young and ambitious.”

In contrast, Ulster were buoyant as they secured qualification with a bonus-point victory. Man of the match Mike Lowry scored two tries, with Robert Baloucoune and Nathan Doak also on the scoresheet. Doak added two conversions.

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A feature of Ulster’s win was the impressive performances of their back three – full-back Lowry and wings Baloucoune and Ethan Mcllroy – who caused Saints no end of problems with their elusive running.

Director of rugby Dan McFarland said: “These youngsters are at a time in their career when they believe they are invincible and they are able to produce some magic moments.

“We always knew it was going to be tough as Saints are a fantastic side and we knew our defence had to be top notch.

“We found it difficult to break them down and now we have to face a difficult task at home to Clermont next week.

“They are a very physical side with hard-hitting ball carriers, so it won’t be easy.”

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