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Richards reveals reason for revival

Northampton stayed in front in the Aviva Premiership title race with a 22-16 win at Newcastle, for whom a losing bonus point represents another step towards safety.

The Saints were heading for a five-point bonus win after scoring three first half tries but Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards revealed his players were smarting enough at half-time to come out and "win" the second half 10-3 and scramble the bonus point.

Richards explained: "I think at half-time we were looking at them getting a tryscoring bonus point so I suppose you have to be happy with getting a losing bonus point at the end.

"The boys sat down at half-time and got their heads together and challenged themselves to turn it around - and they did.

"We played with wind the first half, didn't capitalise on it, conceded three tries and at half-time we were thinking 'what the hell do we do?'

"But to be fair to the players they challenged themselves to turn it around and they did.

"We just tend to drift in and out and we just haven't put together 40 or 80 minutes of consistent rugby.

"Over the last few weeks we seem to have produced 40 minutes rugby here or 40 minutes there and the quality of play seems to be increasing.

"But while I'm pleased with the second half we'll look at the first half where we were poor in the contact area and poor in the first up tackles.

"I thought we did not acquit ourselves well and in consequence we had to commit more men to the breakdown - then the quality of the ball they had coming out of it meant we were stretched defensively."

The wins sees Northampton hang on to top spot in the Premiership, one point ahead of Saracens, who defeated Exeter at home.

Saints boss Jim Mallinder said: "We played really well in the first half into a bit of a breeze, scored three tries and, of course, you would like to kick on.

"But Newcastle upped their game and played well in the second half. That saw us struggle in the line-out to get possession and we were defending on the back foot at the end at little bit - but we got the four points and were happy with that

"It's tough to play rugby out there in those conditions but it's same for both sides. It was very wet under foot and got worse in the second half.

"We've said it before you're never going to get it easy during the international period and you don't get an easy game of rugby coming up to Newcastle.

"It's all about getting the win and keeping the momentum. We played some really good rugby in the first half and made some really good decisions, alternating the workload between the forwards and the backs.

"It was outstanding and that made it a little bit disappointing that we couldn't crack on after that first half performance."

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