Pupil faces teacher as Dowson steels Saints for clash with Dorian's Sharks

While it hasn't quite been a week of shirtless mauling at Saints, the black, green and gold are certainly prepared to face a pack mentored by a former key figure at Franklin's Gardens.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 7:00 am
Dorian West

Dorian West, who was forwards coach when Saints won the Premiership and Challenge Cup in 2014, was renowned for his old-school coaching techniques.

And Phil Dowson having played under West for several years at Saints, certainly knows what he is all about.

Ahead of West and Sale coming to town this afternoon (kick-off 2.45pm), Dowson said: "You know with that pack they're going to be very abrasive and front foot - that's Dorian's style.

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"He's been coaching in this league for a long time, he's got expertise around the scrum and the maul, and it's a big challenge for us.

"It's something I've spent a lot of time learning from him and hopefully we can match that and get on top of them.

"Sale are very physical, very abrasive, they've got a big South African influence.

"Faf de Klerk is talismanic for them but AJ MacGinty is playing very well also.

"They've been very ambitious in how they've invested in their squad and their leadership with Alex Sanderson going in.

"They're really really pushing, they play a certain way, a different way to Quins, and we need to make sure we're up for that physical battle this weekend."

Saints had won four games in a row before back-to-back defeats against Bath and Harlequins.

Both of those matches could and perhaps should have gone in Chris Boyd's side's favour, but they missed big second-half chances in both.

"After Covid lockdown we were poor and we lost a lot of games we weren't really in," Dowson said.

"What's frustrating in the past two weeks is that we've lost games in which we were dominant.

"We had lots of opportunities to score against Bath, we got held up three times and we didn't make that pressure pay.

"It was the same last weekend because we didn't make the pressure tell when we had extra numbers or lineouts from five metres out.

"Over the two weeks, although the games have been different, the story has been the same.

"We've done some really good stuff to get into position and we haven't quite gone the last five yards and been ruthless enough to finish it.

"There are loads of positives but it's about how we can turn possession into points to win these games.

"Every game is so competitive and so close that we need to close them out.

"It comes down to small margins and we need to make sure we're on the right side of those."