Saints savouring challenge of trying to win at the Warriors fortress

Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Phil Dowson says Saints are excited about trying to storm the Glasgow Warriors fortress on Friday night.

The Warriors have lost just once at home in two years, making Scotstoun Stadium one of the toughest grounds in Europe to win at.

But that is the challenge that lies in wait for Saints in their Investec Champions Cup opener.

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And Dowson said: “They've got a cracking home record and you like that challenge as a player and as a coach.

"You want to go and take that scalp if you can.”

Saints took a sizeable scalp last Saturday as they delivered a superb 18-12 win at Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens.

“Obviously the Saracens performance was one we were pleased with based on the fact that a lot of those elements in the game were really consistent throughout the game,” Dowson said.

"Sarries did come back as good sides do, but we had the composure, the leadership and the management to close the game out and win that game.

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"It was really, really pleasing but there was a feeling within the squad that we want to be that every week.

"Obviously it's a big challenge because it's a long season, there are a lot of good sides so where we're trying to get to is 'that's good, we like that, but we need to do it again'.”

So are Saints now in better shape heading into Europe than they were last season, when they suffered defeats in all four pool matches?

"It's hard because I can't actually think back to last year going into Europe how we felt, but we've got a really clear understanding of how we want to play our game, we've got a clear understanding of the space we need to be in mentally and from an energy and intent point of view against these top sides,” Dowson said.

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"There's excitement about the opportunity to play in a great tournament with huge prestige, with great stories around it and the opportunity to play in different places.

"We've not been there (to Glasgow) since 2015 competitively, they're second in the URC, they were top before last weekend, they've scored more maul tries than anyone else and it's a really good challenge for us so we should be excited about that.”

Saints know that the officiating in the Champions Cup will be slightly different to what they encounter in the Premiership on a weekly basis.

Dowson said: “It can be different and one of the things Courtney (Lawes) mentioned during the meetings this week was about how quickly we can adapt.

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“We want to start fast, we want to be in amongst it but if the referee is refereeing it in a certain way, we have to be able to recognise that and adapt some of our behaviours to suit them.”

But there is belief in the Saints camp that they are now a much more flexible side in many aspects.

"I hope so because it's going to be different conditions, different teams, different environments where you're going to have to try to perform,” Dowson said.

“The Newcastle game was very different to the game at home to Bath the week after so we have to able to bring out different facets of our game.

“But at the same time, we also understand what underpins our game regardless of the conditions or the referee or the opposition.”