Northampton Saints coach Phil Dowson said his side gave away too many points in their 24-20 defeat to Ulster at Franklin’s Gardens yesterday.
The English side came into the game still hopeful of making it to the last-16 despite two prior losses but were made to pay for hesitancy in defence as their visitors reacted better to bouncing balls for three of their four tries.
“We weren’t a million miles away at the end but we just gave away too many points,” said Dowson, who took charge of Saints with Chris Boyd serving the first leg of a two game touchline ban for comments made about the referee against Saracens earlier this month.
“We defend for long periods of time, and a lot of the time we do it well, but eventually some of that pressure tells and when we get into those attacking spaces we don’t make as much of it.
“We need to be more consistent in turning pressure into points.
“We have to start learning those lessons or we’re still going to fall away on a four-point loss.
“We need to improve – and we need to improve quickly week to week. We need to make sure we’re better in scenarios where we can exert pressure.
“It’s about training it, understanding what you need to do and then training it under pressure again and again until you can’t get it wrong.
“It’s very hard to recreate scenarios midweek because the injury risk and fatigue mean you don’t want to create that pressure physically, but you do have to try to create it and offer those opportunities.
“But the best and hardest way to learn is in games like today.
“Ulster are a physical, direct team and their forwards go route one and our boys stood up.
“A lot of the time we put good defensive sets in and didn’t give away too many dumb penalties, but we’ve come out on the wrong side, so we need to be better.”
Despite taking two points from their three games, Northampton are remarkably not yet out of the running for a top eight spot in Pool A but heading to Racing 92 this weekend another year spent in the Challenge Cup looks all but certain for the side currently sitting fifth domestically.