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Northampton looking to put Leicester hidings firmly behind them – Phil Dowson

Northampton forwards coach Phil Dowson is relishing a play-off battle against Leicester
Northampton forwards coach Phil Dowson is relishing a play-off battle against Leicester

Phil Dowson admits that Northampton endured two “chastening experiences” against East Midlands rivals Leicester in the Gallagher Premiership this season.

But Saints have an opportunity to put those defeats – 55-26 on home soil and 35-20 at Leicester – firmly behind them on Saturday.

Northampton travel to Mattioli Woods Welford Road for a play-off showdown as they target a first Premiership final appearance since their title-winning 2013-14 campaign.

They beat Leicester in the play-offs that season – a pulsating 21-20 win at Franklin’s Gardens when a late Tom Wood try edged Saints to victory.

It promises to be a Herculean task, though, with Tigers unbeaten at home in the Premiership this term.

And they also finished top after the 24-game regular season, winning 20 of those fixtures.

Saints’ title success eight years ago came a season after they were defeated 37-17 by Leicester in the Twickenham showpiece.

Northampton
Northampton players celebrate winning the Premiership title in 2014 (David Davies/PA)

“It feels pretty special,” said Northampton forwards coach Dowson, who will succeed Chris Boyd as Saints’ rugby director this summer.

“We have worked hard to give ourselves an opportunity in a semi-final, and it’s exciting.”

Saints secured a play-off spot on the back of six victories in their last seven Premiership games.

That sequence included an unlikely second-half comeback success at Bath and a 32-21 victory over Harlequins that was secured by James Grayson’s late penalty.

Dowson added: “We have put a run together, and that is what we had to do with the position we found ourselves in.

“It is clear as day when you are sat in ninth position that you have to start winning some games.

“That put a little bit of pressure on us, and the players responded in a brilliant way. Some of our performances have been excellent, and we are in a position now where we can have a crack at it.

“We have taken a hiding twice (against Leicester), and they have been chastening experiences, particularly in a local derby.

“We have to learn our lessons from that and it is clear for us in terms of getting our game on the field and dealing with their very aggressive and dominant performances.

“How we manage to get ourselves into the game is integral to the success of our game-plan. We have to be physical and we have to be disciplined.

“The derbies are incredibly special, and playing in a semi-final is also an incredibly special occasion.

“We’ve had two East Midlands derbies this season, and we haven’t been brilliant in them.”

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