Dowson takes responsibility for Saints' lineout struggles

Phil Dowson
Phil Dowson

Phil Dowson has taken responsibility for Saints' lineout struggles against Benetton.

And the forwards coach insists his side will be better in that area when they travel to France for a make or break clash with Lyon on Saturday afternoon.

Saints lost six of their 15 lineouts last Sunday, continually giving Benetton the chance to stay in the game.

Hooker Sam Matavesi was replaced by James Fish during the second half, but the blame could not all be placed on the Fiji hooker.

Dowson said: "The lineout wasn't great and that's my responsibility - it primarily sits at my door.

"It's only a failure if we don't learn the lessons from it and we make those mistakes again.

"There were lots of things that went wrong and it was a bit of a perfect storm in terms of all the errors, but we'll get better from that.

"It was a bit of a chastening experience for the callers, throwers, everyone involved, and me as a coach.

"A few weeks ago we played Gloucester, one of the better sides defensively in the league, and we were 93, 94 per cent.

"But we didn't do a good job in that area at Wasps with Charlie Matthews, and then last week there was a whole list of different errors.

"Fundamentally it sits with me so I will make sure I'm better and that we're better prepared for Lyon and that we don't make those same mistakes."

Saints recognise they can't afford to gift Lyon possession if they are to claim the win they desperately want at the Matmut Stadium this weekend.

Chris Boyd's side know a victory would go a long way to helping them make the Champions Cup quarter-finals as one of three best runners-up.

But with Lyon already out of the competition, it is something of a step into the unknown for Saints in terms of the team they will be coming up against.

"You're not entirely sure what you're going to get because there's a huge variety in how they play and in their selection," Dowson said.

"It gives you a chance to focus on yourself and make sure you give yourself the best possible chance to get a win over there.

"Winning in France is exceptional because you're in a culture that does celebrate rugby.

"The post-match is generally pretty good with a few beers, glass of wine, some cheese - it's normally a good vibe, but you only really enjoy that if you get a win."

Saints have not won in France since beating Castres 23-12 in January 2011.

Dowson started at six in that game for the black, green and gold.

And he said: "We went unbeaten until the final (against Leinster) that year and I've got some good memories of playing in France.

"It's a completely different atmosphere in terms of the crowd, the setup and it's very exciting because of that.

"You don't play these sides every year and I've never been to Lyon before so it is an exciting challenge.

"They've got so many variables and what you do know is they're going to be full on.

"French sides at home at a massive handful, especially up front, so we're going to be at a whole different level to where we were last week.

"We're still alive in Europe, but last Sunday was a really good lesson for a lot of the group in terms of where we need to be when we're playing in the toughest comp in the world.

"Our fate is in our hands and we can't ask for more than that, especially with what is a relatively inexperienced group of players in terms of Europe."

So what would it mean for Saints to make the Champions Cup last eight for the first time since they lost at Saracens in 2016?

"You never get enough opportunities to play in quarter-finals," Dowson said.

"I played for 16 years and I played maybe four or five quarter-finals, if that.

"It's a very special opportunity and especially when you've got a side as dangerous as we are.

"If we can be really resolute in defence, which has been better, and be really accurate in delivering the ball, there's no reason we can't cause an upset and get stuck in."