Attack coach Sam knows space can get Saints out of a jam

Saints attack coach Sam Vesty
Saints attack coach Sam Vesty

Watch any good player in any sport and they often look like they are playing in a different timezone to others.

Lionel Messi in football, Beauden Barrett in rugby and Joe Root in cricket - to name but a few - seem to see pictures must faster than their opponents.

It helps them slow events down and make better, more effective decisions.

They create space for themselves to breathe and that extra split second really counts under pressure.

So when you listen to Saints attack coach Sam Vesty, who has seen his side score 39 tries in their past four games, it is easy to understand his approach.

He doesn't want Saints to simply go into their shells and truck the ball up time and again when the heat comes on.

He wants to coach them to deal with situations under real strain, knowing that is the only way they will ever be able to compete with the best.

His nous, allied with the innate talent in the young players he is mentoring, is proving a potent combination.

And that was evident once again last weekend as Saints fell 21-0 and 28-7 down against Newcastle Falcons but retained belief and eventually stormed to a stunning 59-33 Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final success.

"When the pressure comes on, sometimes we revert to a more conservative mindset but we need to look at what we're good at and give the boys confidence to back themselves and find spaces," Vesty explained.

"If you've got boys who can move the ball to the likes of big T (Taqele Naiyaravoro) on the edge and Ace (Ahsee Tuala), who can go and hurt people, you've got a mobile pack who move around and handle the ball pretty well, that's the way we're going to attack.

"The idea is that when the pressure comes on, we need to fall back to what we're good at, which is that, rather than what happened in the past, which is going back to a more conservative style."

Vesty was keen to emphasise the point that it is not just about playing ambitious attacking rugby when you are in a comfortable position against opponents you are clearly better than.

He wants his charges to retain their swagger even against the best.

And that is what they will face in the cup final at Franklin's Gardens on March 17, when Saracens come calling.

"We need to look at it and say 'will we have the conviction to do this against Saracens in the first five minutes when they give you the same picture?' or 'are we doing that just because it's the last minute of a game we're winning anyway?'," Vesty said.

"That's on because we've got our heads up and we saw the space, which I'm really happy with."

George Furbank and Rory Hutchinson were two of the players who looked to be able to create more space and time last weekend, with the pair pulling the strings for Saints.

"Hutch is a good footballer, he sees where the space is and he's got a good skillset to be able to move the ball to the space," Vesty said.

"He can move the ball and Furbs does it really well as well.

"I've been impressed with Luther (Burrell) in that regard and Jimmy (James Grayson) is also looking for it.

"Once people are starting to look for space and playing with that mindset, it becomes easier.

"That's the big positive for me from last weekend."

Now it's about getting some crucial Gallagher Premiership points during the four-game block that beckons before taking on Saracens in that cup final.

"Any silverware your name's in the hat for you want to win it and to be able to get a home final is great for us," Vesty said.

"It's going to be a tough ask but it will be a great game and another opportunity for a young group of guys to get experience of what finals rugby is like."

Sale Sharks are the next opponents as they travel to the Gardens for a league game this afternoon.

And Vesty said: "Sale are the archetypal dogs and they are going to have the right mindset.

"It's a big challenge but it's an exciting one and we're looking forward to it."