Boyd encouraged by Saints' stirring response after 'rubbish' first half at Rodney Parade

Chris Boyd admits Saints were 'rubbish' during the first half of their incredible 43-39 Challenge Cup win at the Dragons.

Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 8:31 pm
Updated Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 8:34 pm
James Grayson roared with delight after Saints secured a memorable win at Rodney Parade

But the boss says the way his side dug their way out of a hole time and again was encouraging.

Saints were in big trouble at 22-3, 32-17 and 39-24 down, having been hit by yellow cards for Ollie Sleightholme, JJ Tonks and Alex Coles during that time.

Tonks and Coles were sin-binned at the same time, leaving Boyd's side down to 13 men during the second half.

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But they refused to go quietly and a last-gasp breakaway score from Tom Collins completed the most amazing of wins for the black, green and gold.

They will now look forward to a European quarter-final at home to Harlequins or Ulster next Saturday.

Boyd said: "The first half here was rubbish obviously, we made dumb decisions, we executed badly and we didn't work hard enough so they threw the first barrage at us and we didn't respond. We dug for cover and we had to have a look at ourselves in the mirror at half-time.

"But it's a young group, we left 14 guys at home (due to injuries and the decision to rest players) and we talked about the fact if we played with enough tempo, we might get a bit of an edge in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

"It wasn't very Nostradamus, but it turned out to be the case and for this group to hold their own and find a way, there's actually some quite encouraging things in there."

When asked about his side's three yellow cards, dished out by French referee Alexandre Ruiz, Boyd said: "It was tough and I don't know whether we're going to have to start training for this because there's such a barrage of red cards and yellow cards across the leagues.

"We were down to 13, one was dumb and one was a bit unlucky. In isolation it probably wasn't a yellow card but with all the stuff that was going on, we incurred his wrath.

"We did pick our way through that, got back to full strength and really started to put the hammer down, and we started to become more fluid.

"There were some good cameos off the bench, which helped us."

Taqele Naiyaravoro and Alex Mitchell scored crucial tries during the second half, with Mitchell later named man of the match.

When asked who impressed him, Boyd said: "Teimana (Harrison) was excellent across all of his things, Alex Mitchell did some amazingly good things and some poor things as well. He does need to add some consistency to his game because he made a couple of mistakes he would be really disappointed with.

"There were some good performances off the bench and that group have not played or trained much together. It was a bit rusty and it showed.

Boyd added: "Both defence coaches will be pretty grumpy, because there wasn't a lot!

"We wondered at half-time whether we were playing tag or something but credit where credit's due - we came here for a Challenge Cup pool match a couple of years ago and the advancement of this club is very significant.

"They've got a very good spine, some very good players and they should be encouraged with where they can go.

"We will be disappointed with our performance overall because we conceded meekly at times, we lost the referee with ill discipline so we've got lots to improve on."

Saints were able to celebrate in the away dressing room before heading home, but not everyone was in hugely celebratory mood.

"There are a couple of guys who are a bit grumpy with me about being taken off but you've got to celebrate your wins," Boyd said.

"We're now into the quarter-finals and we came here to win the game.

"We now look forward to playing either Harlequins or Ulster at home next week.

"Whichever side we face, I'm sure it will be a difficult assignment for us next week."