Saints desperate to learn lessons from loss to Leinster ahead of another semi-final

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When Saints flew home from Dublin earlier this month, they did so with some real regrets.

Because as good as their comeback was at a sold-out Croke Park, they still fell just short as Leinster earned 20-17 win that propelled the Irish giants into the Investec Champions Cup final.

Saints had been slow out of the blocks as early nerves cost them a couple of tries that put Leinster in the driving seat.

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But once Phil Dowson's side got to grips with the semi-final, they realised they could more than compete.

Fraser Dingwall was consoled after Saints lost to Leinster at Croke Park (photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)Fraser Dingwall was consoled after Saints lost to Leinster at Croke Park (photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Fraser Dingwall was consoled after Saints lost to Leinster at Croke Park (photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

They stopped trying to force their own game and, in the process, forced Leinster into a corner, giving the men in blue a real scare before they eventually got over the line.

Saints knew that had they just played their natural game from the off rather than being rattled by the occasion and the stature of the opposition, they could well have been facing Toulouse in last Saturday's showpiece, which was won by the French side in extra-time.

And the black, green and gold are now desperate to make sure lessons have been learned ahead of another semi-final, this time against Saracens in the Premiership play-offs on Friday night.

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"I feel like we take massive learnings from that semi-final at Croke Park and that's going to play a massive part in how we prepare for the game on Friday night," said Saints centre Fraser Dingwall.

"It's much the same because it's just another game of rugby - there's just more weighted on it.

"We're not going chasing any miracles, it's just about putting our stuff on the pitch.

"It just took us too long to realise that we were in a place where we could win that game (against Leinster) and we didn't need to put anything on the pitch that we hadn't previously done every week.

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"The learnings come from understanding how good this group is and that we don't have to go chasing miracles.

"It's about getting the performance right and doing the basics of our game consistently well."

While Saints continued to struggle with semi-finals, failing to win one in the Premiership or Europe since the double-winning season of 2013/14, Saracens know all about prevailing on the big occasion.

They have won five of the past nine Premiership titles.

And Dingwall said: "You know that they've been exposed to so many big games that they're always going to get themselves into the right spot mentally so it's more about how we can match that.

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"If we can maximise what we have then we've showed timed and time again this season that when we get things right, it's very tough for people to beat us.

"As long as we can mentally be in the right space, I don't have any qualms about us facing them."

This Friday's game at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens comes on the 10th anniversary of when Saints beat Saracens at Twickenham to claim a first, and so far only, Premiership title.

Dingwall was just a teenager at the time.

And he said: "Me, my brother and dad were at the final but I watched the semi-final at home in my living room and I was going mental when Woody (Tom Wood) scored.

"I've got some fond memories of those times."

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Now this Saints side want some special memories of their own.

"There's been a lot of lessons over the last few years and it's all come together this season," Dingwall said.

"We're at a place where there's true belief in the ability of this squad and it's more than just potential - we're realising it a lot more.

"We've been exposed to big occasions, had big challenges and big outcomes and we've come through things a lot more than we may have done previously.

"There's a real hunger from this squad to not just be turning up to these games but to turn up to perform and really put our mark on it.

"Come Friday night, we'll be setting about our business.”

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