Dowson calls for ‘more consistency’ despite Northampton win over Harlequins

Dowson calls for ‘more consistency’ despite Northampton win over Harlequins

Northampton Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson admitted he was “delighted” to see his side emerge victorious in a 10-try Gallagher Premiership thriller against Harlequins but tempered it with a call for “more consistency” from his players.

Saints bounced back from a disappointing derby defeat against Leicester Tigers with an end-to-end 36-33 win at home to move up to fourth in the table, level on 21 points with third-place Quins.

It was the kind of performance Dowson was hoping to see in response and one which he knows he will need to see more often if Saints are to challenge for top honours this season.

“Delighted against a side that had a big point to prove, we knew what a talented group they are,” Dowson told TNT Sports. “We made it difficult for ourselves at times and clearly not happy conceding so many points but very happy with the attitude and the application of the players throughout.

“I think knowing that group of players and knowing the team as we do, we’ve got to get to a point where we don’t need to have a disappointing performance like we had up at Leicester last week in order to get that reaction.

“So that’s what we’re always pushing for us is clearly more consistency but it’s a tough league and we were tested again this evening.”

It was a pulsating contest at Franklin’s Gardens. After a bruising defeat at home to Saracens last week, it was Harlequins who came flying out the blocks as Cadan Murley crashed over the line in the fifth minute to open the scoring on his return.

But in what became a theme of the match, Saints quickly hit back. Samuel Matavesi broke off a driving maul four minutes later and put Ollie Sleightholme into space, with the winger riding the tackle of Marcus Smith to cross the white line.

Jack Walker put Quins back in front from a maul, but the visitors were left to rue some sloppy set-piece play at the end of the first half.

An overthrown lineout was picked up by Northampton’s Courtney Lawes, whose offload off the ground set Lewis Ludlam up for easy run-in, before Alex Mitchell pounced when the ball popped out of the scrum for a try that gave the hosts a nine-point advantage at the break.

That would prove decisive as Quins never regained parity. A try from Nathan Jibulu in the 80th minute ensured it went right to the wire and secured the visitors a second bonus point but it was a deserved Saints win in the end.

Deputising at fly-half for the rested Fin Smith, George Furbank was instrumental in defence and attack for Northampton, slotting four conversions, one penalty and assisting Alex Coles for his second-half try.

Dowson described the 27-year-old full-back as a “cool customer” and praised his versatility.

“He’s played international rugby at 10, he’s a consummate footballer,” Dowson added. “When he’s got time on the ball, he creates space for other people.

“He’s got a really good head on his shoulders, very balanced, and his kicking has come on leaps and bounds out of hand and off the floor. And his defence as well.

“To have that opportunity to give Fin [Smith] some time to make sure he’s 100% and try bring him is a really big asset for us.”

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