Mitchell: Saints can still make the top four

Scrum-half Alex Mitchell insists Saints can still 'easily get into the top four and even higher' this season.

By Tom Vickers
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 7:00 am
Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell

The black, green and gold have suffered back-to-back Gallagher Premiership defeats, to Harlequins and Saracens.

That has seen them slip to sixth in the standings and they go to Newcastle Falcons this afternoon knowing they really need a win to get them back on track.

"It's been quite a frustrating few weeks with the results but we've felt like we've performed reasonably well at times and just let ourselves down in 20, 30 minutes of games with a few different errors in a few areas of our games," Mitchell said.

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"It's been disappointing but the boys aren't too disheartened yet and we're looking forward to the next couple of weeks.

"The top six is all still very tight and we're not even halfway through the games so there's obviously a long way to go.

"We know the performances will be there and we will get the points in the future so there's no panic stations yet.

"We know we can easily get into that top four and even higher.

"We're pushing the next couple of weeks and hopefully we can get some results and points back on the board."

Saints are currently four points behind fourth-placed Gloucester having played 11 league matches so far this season.

And Chris Boyd's side will desperately hope to get back in the groove this weekend, having notched a total of 12 points across their past 145 minutes of rugby.

"The good thing is that we have performed for periods, we can score tries and we know we can perform," Mitchell said.

"It's just the little lapses of concentration.

"We've got plenty of results away from home plenty of times and hopefully we can get the points in the next few weeks.

"Newcastle is not always the nicest of trips in January but we're not too focused on them.

"We know if we put our game forward, we'll get the result.

"It feels even better on that bus trip back if you get a result."

But Saints know they must vastly improve their second-half performance this weekend, and also how they react to going behind in matches.

They seemed to lose their composure when staring at a deficit against Harlequins and Saracens.

And Mitchell said: “It is always tough against the top sides.

“We've always been pretty good in the first half but it's just that period after half-time that we've struggled.

“When we go behind, sometimes we try to chase the game and try to force things we wouldn't normally do and we don't stick to our normal processes.

“It's always tough against a team like Sarries or Racing who have got experienced players and they know how to deal with us when we try to force things.

“It's put us on the back foot and we've struggled even more from that.

“It's definitely something we need to work on and the period after half-time we're maybe too easy to score against at the moment and that's the biggest thing.

“We'll put a lot of pressure on teams and not get a lot of points but then we let them get an easy try and then that's where we really struggle.

“It's one thing we've been really working on this week.”

So what has been going wrong for Saints in the second half of matches?

“We're not really too sure if it's the messaging at half-time or just that concentration for the whole 80 minutes,” Mitchell added.

“It just takes one person to lose concentration for a second and that's a try so we need to realise that throughout the whole squad, every moment in the game is massively important, especially against the top sides.

“We can't just let them off with an easy mistake or a discipline error.

“Across the board, we need to be better, as a whole 23.”

For him at the No.9, Mitchell knows he must get the balance right between composure at key times and eagerness to get Saints moving.

“It's tough because I always want to play at tempo and that's how we thrive but you've got to play at your own tempo if you're on the back foot or you're struggling,” he said.

“The weather and the scoreboard dictates a lot of things so you've got to be aware of that and change up the game, especially as a nine and 10 because you organise that most of the time.

“For me, it's something I'm getting used to and hopefully I can get better at that with experience.”