'Playing at 7/10 and getting wins is good' - but Saints coach Vesty calls for improvement
Sam Vesty has been pleased with the results Saints have delivered in recent weeks - but he has warned them they must improve to beat Benetton on Sunday.
The black, green and gold defeated Gloucester in the final game of 2019 before starting 2020 with a thrilling win at Wasps.
Saints were in control of both of those matches but almost let them slip late on.
They eventually defeated Gloucester 33-26 and edged out Wasps 35-31 at the Ricoh Arena last Sunday thanks to a late Taqele Naiyaravoro try.
And attack coach Vesty said: "We're really happy we dug ourselves out of a hole, and the boys showed great mettle to get out of it.
"They're the things you remember at the end of the year - 'do you remember us getting out of that hole at Wasps?'.
"It shows a real good character, but allowing ourselves to slip into that was disappointing.
"Although we've come away from the past two games with a total of nine points, we've probably only been a 7/10.
"We're striving for a better performance and I'd like to see us get there.
"The fact we are playing at 7/10 and still getting wins is good, but the focus has got to be on getting better for long periods of time.
"Every week is a challenge and the challenge for us last weekend was whether we could go and back up the win against Gloucester.
"If you want to be a proper good team you go and do it. If you're going to just knock around mid-table somewhere, it's probably one that slips between your fingers.
"It was a challenge Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) talked about and we did nearly let it slip, but ultimately we didn't."
Saints know they must win at home to Benetton this weekend if they are to harbour realistic hopes of reaching the Champions Cup quarter-finals as one of three best runners-up.
"We've got to win this weekend - that's an absolute must," Vesty said.
"We don't want to look ahead too much but if we get a win this weekend, it gives us a shot to qualify (at Lyon) next weekend.
"But Benetton are a really good team. They've got nothing to play for other than pride, but that makes you a dangerous outfit. It makes you move the ball a bit more and play with more freedom.
"It makes you very difficult and dangerous to play against.
"They're a big, strong outfit and they are a good team.
"We've got to be on our mettle and we've got to go after our performance.
"If we focus on ourselves and put in a good performance, the result should look after itself.
"But if we're not quite there, they can make life very difficult."
Saints have been boosted by two bits of good news this week.
The first was the appointment of Ian Vass as defence coach, and the second was Henry Taylor's contract extension.
On Vass, who has recently departed Top 14 giants Montpellier, where he was skills and defence coach, Vesty said: "Vassy will give us his experience in that defence role.
"He will turn us into a really hungry defence that want to go and get the ball back.
"It's something we haven't been as good at as we could have been."
As for scrum-half Taylor, who has impressed since joining Saints from Saracens last summer, Vesty said: "I've watched Henry for a good few years, from when he playing at Loughborough University and England Under-20s.
"I knew what his game was like, I knew what he was about and I knew it suited how we wanted to play.
"He's shown his game suits us and the way we want to play suits him really well.
"It's good to have him on-board for a few years.
"He's also brilliant for us off the pitch as well. He's a competitor, he really wants to win everything, which makes your training better, and he's got good leadership skills as well."