'Incredibly special' - Saints coach Dowson savouring derby-day clash

Phil DowsonPhil Dowson
Phil Dowson
Phil Dowson says today's East Midlands derby will be ‘incredibly special’.

Saints and local rivals Leicester Tigers will square up in a Gallagher Premiership play-off semi-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road (kick-off 4.30pm).

Tigers are big favourites to advance to the Twickenham showpiece, which takes place on June 18, as they finished top of the table.

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Steve Borthwick’s side won every regular-season home league game, earning 20 victories from the 24 Premiership matches they played.

But Saints have won six of their past seven league games, picking up 32 points from a possible 35 in the process.

And they will now set their sights on springing a surprise at Tigers.

"The East Midlands derby is incredibly special, but playing in a semi-final is also incredibly special,” said Saints forwards coach Dowson.

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"It’s a special occasion and the East Midlands derby has been spoken about loads. We’ve had two this season and we haven’t been brilliant in them.

"We have to make sure we get the emotional and technical prep right to play in a semi-final.

"We had a semi-final against them that we won at home (in 2014) and there was a semi-final up there in 2011 when (Alesana) Tuilagi bounced off Bruce Reihana and we lost in the last five minutes. That was one of the most brutal games I’ve played in.

"It’s swings and roundabouts with a derby game, it’s going to be good or bad, but you don’t get to play in enough semis, that’s for sure.”

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Dowson played in the memorable May 2014 play-off semi-final against Tigers, when Tom Wood's try helped 14-man Saints to secure a stunning late win at the Gardens.

"I can’t remember much about the game – I remember the night out afterwards a bit more,” Dowson said.

"I remember there was an overthrown lineout and I scored, but they came back for some ridiculous decision and it was scratched off.

"I remember the Tom Wood score, and I think Salesi Ma’afu (who was sent off) might have done something wrong in that game…

"I remember the crowd, the atmosphere was outstanding and our recent Friday night win against Quins reminded me of that.”