Saints skipper Hartley confident Clermont defeat will spark reaction at Exeter

Saints skipper Dylan Hartley
Saints skipper Dylan Hartley

If Saints fans are desperate for a dose of optimism after last Saturday’s collapse at Clermont, they can extract some solace from history as they head for Sandy Park.

Because a side that can at times be the rugby version of Jekyll and Hyde have got a good record when it comes to recovering from soul-destroying defeats.

After losing 25-6 to Ulster in unceremonious fashion to Ulster at Franklin’s Gardens in December, 2012, they bounced back to win 10-9 in Belfast a week later.

Later that season came an even worse Gardens thrashing at the hands of old rivals Leicester Tigers.

But after that chastening 36-8 defeat, they scrapped to a 31-14 win at London Welsh in their next fixture a couple of weeks later.

And in the final month of 2013 they produced the biggest turnaround of them all, picking themselves up off the floor after a 40-7 home defeat to Leinster to win 18-9 in Dublin.

So, Exeter Chiefs beware.

“We’ve got a big task this week against Exeter, who are a form side, away from home, so we’ve got to bounce back pretty quickly,” said skipper Dylan Hartley, signalling his side’s intentions.

“I’m not worried about it (whether last week affected morale).

“There’s things to learn from the Clermont game and things to work on.

“There are a few things out there that couldn’t go unnoticed. We’ve had to look at them and work on them.”

And as Hartley displayed, with a wry smile after the question was asked, he and his team-mates know how to deal with setbacks.

“I’ve had plenty of shockers,” he said. “Collectively as a group it’s pretty disappointing. Across the board, we 
just didn’t perform last weekend.

“It’s not like a few individuals didn’t play well and we lost the game by 10 points, seven points - it was pretty one-sided, so that’s the disappointing thing.”

The post-match honesty from Hartley and his fellow Saints was striking.

And that can only be positive as no punches will have been pulled in training at the Gardens this week.

“Early on we went 10-0 down and we had a chance to put three on the board but missed,” Hartley reflected.

“They kept building and building and we compounded error on error.

“They got everything right: emotionally they were right, the intensity was there for 80 minutes and they took the opportunities every time we gave them one.”

“We were steamrollered.”