Saints ready to show they are not vulnerable
When one side does it, others will feel they can follow.
And that is exactly what Wasps did last weekend, as they emulated Bath by winning in Northampton during the formative stages of this season.
Saints have now lost both of their home games in the Aviva Premiership and face a real challenge to stop that becoming three successive defeats on Friday night.
Exeter Chiefs will be on the charge to Northampton, with Saints forwards coach Dorian West admitting that Rob Baxter’s men may sense some ‘vulnerability’ in Saints.
But Jim Mallinder’s side will be out to prove that they are strong enough to cope under the pressure created by three defeats from four games this season, which has sent them down to 10th in the embryonic league standings.
“We’ve lost twice at home and teams will be looking at us, thinking we’re vulnerable,” said West. “But we’ve got a lot of confidence in the team and we know if we can play properly we’ll win the game. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Saints were below-par on the opening day against Bath, slipping to a disappointing 18-14 defeat at the Gardens.
But performances since then have been far better, with a big win at Bristol followed by spirited defeats to Saracens and Wasps.
Saints were 12-9 up at Allianz Park before an Alex Waller sin-binning cost them dear and they lost 27-12.
And they dominated the game against Wasps at the Gardens last weekend, but were beaten 20-15 after failing to take their chances.
“I’ve never experienced it before where we’ve played so well, lost a game and everyone’s gone away with a funny feeling thinking we’ve been really good but also disappointed that we’ve lost,” West said.
“We’ve just got to keep focusing on ourselves and keep doing the things we’ve been doing.”
Saints will need the same again in terms of performance on Friday night, but with a different result.
Just as they were when confronting Saracens and Wasps, Mallinder’s men will take on a team who have got some early-season momentum.
Exeter lost their opening two games but have since beaten Harlequins and Bristol.
And West said: “We’ve played three of the big teams already and we’ve played Bristol away, which is always a chance of a banana skin, and, on the whole, we’ve been competing more than well.
“It’s just a matter of us making sure we get it right because Exeter will come here, they’re a confident team, they get it right, they play a lot of rugby and we’ve had some tough battles against them here in the past.
“We know what they’re going to bring - they’ve got some old heads in their team, they’re experienced and we just need to make sure we keep concentrating on ourselves and keep creating the chances that we have done.”
But West knows that chances without conversion mean nothing.
He added: “We’ve just got to execute and finish things off.
“We created chances, but that’s no good if you’re not going to score them.
“We’re aware of what we need to do and we’ve worked hard again this week to try to put it right.”