Longest 80 minutes I’ve ever played

THE black eye was just the visible manifestation of the pain Northampton forward Tom Wood was feeling after his side’s humiliation by Leinster.

The England back row was ashamed and embarrassed by his team’s performance at Franklin’s Gardens as the three-time Heineken Cup champions demolished the Saints 40-7 to leave Wood’s side needing a miracle to get out of Pool 1. While Wood appeared shell-shocked by an experience he described as “soul-destroying”, he was still acutely aware there was nothing the Saints coaches needed to tell the players about how abject they had been in front of their own supporters.

“There is no hair dryer treatment because we are all pretty ashamed about what just happened. To have fans call you an embarrassment as you leave the field is about as bad as it gets. All we try to do is make the fans proud of what we do as a team and we can’t be proud of what we did out there today and we don’t expect them to be. We can only apologise.

Asked where it went wrong for Northampton, Wood replied “everywhere,” adding it had been ‘like an unopposed team run for them for most of that game’.

“Leinster are a quality side. They have a great track record in Europe but they aren’t 40 points better than us. They are not that much better than us, the way they looked today. I don’t know what’s wrong with us. You think we would have learnt after last year (losing at home to Ulster in the pool stages).

“We got yet another lesson. We are going to have to front up and have a good look at ourselves and try and make a fist of it next week. Come to Dublin and give them a game, show the real Northampton because that was unrecognisable out there today. That is probably the longest 80 minutes I’ve ever played. That was worse than Ulster last year. I’m ashamed to say it but I couldn’t wait for the final whistle. After half time you are trying to show character, you are trying to be brave and salvage something from a game that has clearly gone away from you. We didn’t even make mistakes on the front foot, taking chances.

“It’s not like we were flying out of the line and getting beaten by a side step or neat play, we just stood off them and absorbed pressure until they scored. We backed off until they walked over our line. That is just unforgivable at this level. Leinster are a very good side. Like I say, it felt like they had twice as many players on the field. I didn’t know which hole to plug first. Which brick wall to run into next.”

Now Wood and his cohorts must face up to a return leg this Saturday at Aviva Stadium, their Heineken Cup ambitions in tatters but still with plenty to play for.

“We would like to salvage some pride, much like we did last year. It is not beyond us. As typically happens in these circumstances they may think they have this won and maybe some complacency will creep in after destroying us here at home. We can’t rely on that but we will go out there and regroup and hopefully put in a performance that, if not get the result, we can be proud of . We had a real chance. I feel on our day we can beat that Leinster side. But they’ve got too many class players to give them that much free ball and field position. Eventually you are going to lose and we did.”


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