A dose of nostalgia for Dowson as Saints prepare to face Ulster

When you've had a career as long and successful as Phil Dowson, it's nice to look back on it from time to time.

By Tom Vickers
Saturday, 10th April 2021, 7:00 am
Ulster cruised past Saints when they last travelled to Franklin's Gardens, back in December 2012, but it was a different story in Belfast on the following weekend
Ulster cruised past Saints when they last travelled to Franklin's Gardens, back in December 2012, but it was a different story in Belfast on the following weekend

And, when prompted at this week's media session, the Saints forwards coach was happy to relive one of his fondest Northampton memories.

It came at Ravenhill in December 2012 as Saints travelled to Belfast on the back of a sizeable beating at the hands of Ulster at Franklin's Gardens.

It looked to be mission impossible for Jim Mallinder's men, but they stepped up in style to record an incredible 10-9 success.

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GJ van Velze's try and Stephen Myler's boot put Saints in front in the first half, and they never looked back as a Jamie Elliott tap tackle on Tommy Bowe proved key in keeping the lead.

Ulster could have won it from the tee but fluffed their lines, giving Saints reason to celebrate in style in Belfast.

And ahead of another meeting with the Ulstermen in the Challenge Cup quarter-final at the Gardens on Saturday, former No.8 Dowson took a little time to look back.

"I played them on a couple of occasions and in the Heineken Cup I've got very fond memories of the away trip, which we won," Dowson said.

"I don't think many sides had been to Ravenhill and won so that was a great result, especially as we'd had a bit of a hiding against them at home the week before.

"We know that Ulster will come here brimming with confidence and they've turned us over in the past at home so we need to make sure we're on our mettle."

Ulster cruised past a Harlequins second-string at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday evening, while Saints had to work much harder to beat the Dragons in a thrilling game at Rodney Parade a day earlier.

And when asked whether Saints can learn anything from watching Ulster's game against a much-changed Quins side, Dowson said: "I still think you can see the style of play Ulster want to go with and how efficient they are when they get into scoring areas.

"We definitely watched it as a coaching group, messaging together during the game and we've been talking about the quality they have and the threats they've got.

"They were accurate in that game because although Quins made a lot of changes, there were still some decent players knocking around out there.

"They were brutally efficient with what they did.

"We watched that game last Sunday while eating Easter eggs in our respective homes and we've been working out how we can get a victory this week."

Ulster have only lost twice in 2021, with both of those defeats coming against Leinster.

They finished second in Conference A behind Leinster in the Pro14.

And Dowson added: They've got some very talented players, they're very cohesive, very direct and we saw their mauling prowess against Harlequins.

"They've got a nine, John Cooney, who is dangerous, and there's Billy Burns at 10 so they're very creative.

"(Stuart) McCloskey at 12 is a real big target for them in terms of getting them over the gainline and they've got speed out wide.

"I thought Michael Lowry has been outstanding through the season and obviously Jacob Stockdale is quality as well."