Saints still searching for crucial consistency

How do Saints achieve the consistency that can take them to a title?

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 7:00 am
Alex Waller and Phil Dowson

That is one of the big questions that needs to be answered at Franklin's Gardens this summer following what is likely to be a second successive season spent outside of the top four.

Saints had looked good for a play-off place after they won at Leicester Tigers just a few weeks ago.

But as has become an irksome theme this season, it proved to be a case of one step forward before taking two back.

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Chris Boyd s side suffered a shocking 31-7 home defeat to Gloucester before falling flat at Newcastle Falcons last time out.

Those results led Boyd to say 'we're dead, mate - we're gone' as he wrote off Saints' chances of making the end-of-season play-offs.

Ahead of Saturday's game against Wasps, which is set to be played in front of as many as 4,000 fans at Franklin's Gardens, Saints sit 11 points off fourth-placed Harlequins.

And with just 15 points to play for, a minor miracle would be needed to crash the play-off party.

So just how can Saints not only bridge that gap next season but also the one between themselves and the likes of Bristol Bears and Exeter Chiefs, who have made winning a habit?

"It's the question and if it was simple it would be an easy fix," said Saints forwards coach Phil Dowson.

"Consistency is something that needs to be worked on in terms of training weeks, individual training plans so that come game day we get a consistent, steady performance.

"One week we'll be very good and the next week we're not so good, and the last two games have been disappointing.

"There were 11 weeks where we'd won eight games so it's not necessarily broken, it's just small margins and consistency of behaviour."

So how much have the coaches learned from this roller coaster campaign?

"Since the end of the Covid break, playing two games a week, and then this season, we've learned every week," Dowson said.

"You learn from every training session and it's never something you perfect or fully understand.

"We've learned a lot, talked a lot and Chris is brilliant at developing his coaching group.

"He's got a close relationship with his coaches and we can be pretty honest in terms of how we think the game should be played.

"That open discussion means we pursue lots of avenues and hopefully we can put a plan together and make sure we're way more consistent in what we're trying to do."

When Saints won the Premiership title back in 2013/14, they went on a run of 13 games without defeat.

Alex Waller was a part of that side, eventually scoring the winning try in the Premiership final against Saracens.

"Consistency is key and that's the key word," said the Saints co-captain.

"When we play our rugby, we're a really good side.

"When we stick to our process and our game, we're a fantastic side.

"We can sometimes go off task a bit when things don't go our way and that's the lesson.

"We've got a lot better since that losing streak last season (Saints lost 12 in a row) and that did a good job to help boys learn to manage disappointment and deal with the pressure that comes now.

"We've still got plenty to work on and we know we need to stick to our process and game plan. When we execute it, we score some really good tries.

"We've got a dominant pack now and the backs speak for themselves.

"When it all comes together, it's pretty tasty.

"Hopefully we can put it on the pitch against Wasps this weekend and put a performance in."