Late first-half lapses so costly as Dowson is left to reflect on second Saints defeat

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Phil Dowson was left to rue a costly end to the first half as Saints suffered a second successive defeat at the start of the new Gallagher Premiership season.

The black, green and gold had taken control against Bristol Bears at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens, scoring three tries as they moved into a 19-8 lead.

But Callum Sheedy notched a penalty just before the break, and there was still time for a converted Magnus Bradbury try that reduced the deficit to just a single point.

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It was a deflating two-minute spell for Saints, who did bag the bonus point score just after the restart thanks to Tommy Freeman.

Tommy Freeman bagged the bonus-point try for Saints (photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)Tommy Freeman bagged the bonus-point try for Saints (photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)
Tommy Freeman bagged the bonus-point try for Saints (photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)

But Bristol kept pushing forward, scoring two second-half tries to add to Bradbury's first-half double before delivering a big defensive set late on to secure the win.

"It was very disappointing," said Dowson, who had seen his side suffer a 20-15 defeat at Sale Sharks six days earlier.

"I thought for the first 38 minutes of the game we looked very good, we looked strong and it was 19-11 just before half-time and we conceded a score that changed the whole complexion of the first half.

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"It gave them a lot of energy and in the second half, we never really got into our stride. We gave away a lot of penalties and a yellow card (for Sam Graham) clearly didn't help either so Bristol came back into the game.

"There's no lack of effort and we tried to push on in the second half but we just couldn't get the momentum back after the end of the first half and it took us too long.

"In the last five minutes we had an opportunity but we're leaving it too late, as we did last week."

Saints are really up against it in terms of injuries as they had 10 players on their ‘not considered for selection’ list before the game and then lost George Hendy to an issue in the warm-up.

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Freeman, James Ramm and Sam Graham were all forced off during the second half as the problems piled up for Dowson.

But he said: "Injuries are always disruptive to every side. It's rugby and there are going to be injuries.

"We tried to adapt today. We tried to train to cover some of those injuries and of course they are disruptive, but we've got a very capable squad and a very capable group of players to deal with that."

When asked whether any players could return to face Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park next Sunday, Dowson said: “I hope so.

"I’ll have to sit down with the medics and work out what that might look like.”

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