Dowson tells Saints to tighten things up as they take on Sale Sharks

Phil Dowson has called on Saints to produce a 'tighter' performance when they host Sale Sharks in their final warm-up match on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
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The black, green and gold return to Gallagher Premiership action with a trip to Bristol Bears on March 22.

And in preparation for that, they scheduled two exhibition matches, with the Sale clash the second of those.

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Last Saturday, Saints were beaten 45-29 by South African side DHL Stormers in an entertaining encounter at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

It was a very loose match in which the Stormers were ruthless in taking their chances, many of which came on the counter-attack.

And Dowson is now looking for Saints to sharpen up in all aspects of the game as they prepare for that huge Bristol battle.

"We want to be a bit tighter in our game and a bit more on track in what we do as we get into the Prem," said the Saints boss.

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"Again it will be an extended bench this week but people will run for a little bit longer to make sure we're ready for the Bristol game, which is the most important thing.

Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

"We want to see our game on the pitch: elements of our set piece, our defence, our attack, our kick strategy, all of those things we're trying to evolve.

"The more of those images we can see in this game, the better, and that will stand us in good stead for Bristol."

The Stormers provided a tough test for Saints, particularly at scrum time and on turnover ball.

And Dowson said: "It was good.

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"Stormers came with a good side so it was a proper challenge, which is what we expected.

"They were ruthless so dropped balls, turnovers, intercepts they scored from.

"That in itself was quite frustrating because our defence at times really stood up to what they brought to the table.

"Some of those errors, some of those turnovers, some of that looseness was to be expected after a long period of time not playing, but we need to make sure we're not quite as open in the opportunities we offer people."

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Despite having never previously played against them, Saints have a close relationship with the Stormers.

And Dowson said: "We enjoyed the conversations with their coaching group, we learned a lot.

"From a game point of view, it looked very much like a pre-season game, where there's some things we really liked but there's obviously things we really need to sharpen up.

"It definitely served its purpose in terms of finding out where we're at.

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"We need to be better moving forward and Friday night is an opportunity to do that."

There was a memorable moment during last weekend's game at the Gardens as Stormers star Hacjivah Dayimani scored late on and then jumped into the Barwell Stand before taking his shirt off to reveal a Saints jersey.

It was later revealed to this publication that Dayimani had been given the shirt by the Stormers forwards coach a couple of days before the game and wanted to reveal it should he score as a token of thanks for the warm welcome he and his team had received at the Gardens.

And he did just that, to the amusement of everyone in the stadium, including Saints boss Dowson.

"I thought it was epic, really good," Dowson said.

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"We've had players from the Stormers in terms of Courtnall Skosan and Juarno Augustus and their coaches have spent time in our environment and Matt Ferguson went and spent some time there.

"It's a really good, strong relationship between two proper rugby clubs and that celebration from their player, who is a bit of a character from what I've heard, was good.

"It's what you want in games like that. A bit like the Barbarians, you want to create some fun because the whole point of the sport is to entertain people and have a bit of craic, and I enjoyed that."

Some on social media speculated that Saints may be trying to sign Dayimani due to his clear appreciation for the club.

And Dowson joked: "He's very, very fast and he plays eight and wing so we'll maybe have a look at what his agent's saying!"

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