Dowson salutes Saints' 'character, heart and resilience' after stunning win at Exeter

Saints boss Phil Dowson (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)Saints boss Phil Dowson (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Saints boss Phil Dowson (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Phil Dowson hailed the 'character, heart and resilience' Saints showed in their stunning 42-36 win at Exeter Chiefs on Saturday afternoon.

The black, green and gold came back from 26-0, 29-28 and 36-35 down to prevail 42-36 thanks to Rory Hutchinson's last-gasp try.

Ollie Sleightholme scored a hat-trick for a Saints side who ended Exeter's 23-match unbeaten at Sandy Park, where they hadn't lost since October 2022.

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It moved Dowson's men back to the top of the Gallagher Premiership table.

And the Saints boss was delighted with the way his side stuck in the fight despite seeing Exeter rack up a try bonus point inside just 23 minutes.

"Exeter Chiefs score more tries in the first 10 minutes of games than any other side in the Premiership," Dowson said. "We talked about that, we said we had to come out swinging but we probably didn't.

"We didn't deal with that energy they bring, with that blunt force trauma that they play with and at 26-0 down it's a mountain, particularly here.

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"But credit to the group, the players within it, the belief they have in the system and what they're trying to do.

"To get two scores before half-time was really important.

"We stuck at it.

"We were challenged on all fronts across the board from our set piece, our defence, the way we're kicking the ball. It wasn't right in the first half, we know that, and there's loads of things we can do better.

"But the things you can't measure, you can't buy, that are really hard to coach are things like character, heart and resilience, and they've been a long time coming.

"We've been through some hard times, here in particular, and at other places where we haven't got those results, but those lessons and those experiences have given us the opportunity to get this one."

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The likes of Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman came off the bench to make big impacts against Exeter.

And Dowson explained why he had again opted to rotate his side for the trip to Sandy Park.

He said: "It's more in the context of a really long period of games, back to back to back, so at some point Tom Pearson can't play every minute of every game, Courtney Lawes can't play every minute of every game, Alex Mitchell can't play every minute of every game. You'd like them to because they are top quality.

"Cal Braley trains his heart out every week. He pushes the group, he trains well, he deserves the opportunity and there are loads of guys across the board who do that.

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"Angus Scott-Young is another man who puts his body on the line every single time he plays. We trust him and you've got to trust the squad.

"Although we may go behind in the first half, we purposely made no changes at half-time to allow that group to go out and show what they're capable of."