Tom Wood says Saints’ performance in Sunday’s defeat at Sale Sharks was ‘rubbish’.
The England flanker gave a typically honest assessment of the display following the 20-13 loss at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Stephen Myler scored all of Saints’ points, but his personal haul was only good enough for a losing bonus point.
Tries from Sam James and Will Addison, allied with 10 points from the boot of Danny Cipriani, handed Sale the win.
It was their third successive Aviva Premiership home success against Saints, who have not won at the AJ Bell Stadium in the league since November 2012.
“We were rubbish and we were beaten by a team that are tough to beat at home,” Wood said. “They are a dogged side, they’ve got some good players and we’ve found that over the past three years.
“I don’t know what it is about this place, we just don’t perform here. We said all the right messages, came out and knew what we wanted to do - we just didn’t do it.
“I thought we lacked a few per cent of fight, hunger and aggression that you need at this level and when that happens across the board, it’s a game-changer. They had it, we didn’t - and hence we lost.”
Wood was at a loss to explain why Saints didn’t put in the performance they wanted, admitting they should have known better after recent defeats at the AJ Bell Stadium.
“It’s crazy really because we’re very clear on what you have to do to come and win here and we should have learned lessons over the last couple of years,” he added. “Unfortunately, we haven’t.
“You come to places like this and go through the motions, which is what it feels like we’ve done on this occasion, and you will get beaten.
“It’s incredibly disappointing given the track record we’ve got and all we can do is say well done to Sale because they had a hunger about them early on that we lacked.
“We showed what we’re capable of with a little flurry late in the game, but, realistically, we should never have been in the game.
“We were poor defensively, bouncing off tackles, allowing them to slip through and make line breaks too easily without really having to work for it and obviously they got a bit of fortune with the try in the second half with us not quite claiming that ball.
“When things like that go against you, you’re under pressure.”
Saints have won just one of their opening three Aviva Premiership games, with the 42-16 victory against Newcastle Falcons at stadium:mk their solitary success.
And Wood said: “If I’m honest, I don’t think we played particularly well against Newcastle!
“Although that was a convincing win in the end, there was plenty to work on at the end of that game.
“Maybe it’s because we’ve been a bit disjointed - that pre-season maybe meandered a little bit - with internationals coming in and out, the deflation on the back of World Cup campaigns, the gelling of the team maybe.
“I’m not saying any of those things are the answer, we just need to find a way of getting back to our best and playing the kind of rugby we enjoy playing.
“At the moment, we’re stuttering a bit and we’re not quite sure of ourselves so we need to get back to our best.”