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A First Title

The 2000 Heineken Cup win proved to be the zenith of that particular Saints team. Bateman, Lam, Rodber and Pagel all left in 2001 and proved to be big shoes to fill.

That said, under former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith (John Steele's successor) Saints came within touching distance of more silverware, making successive cup final appearances in 2002 and 2003 and reaching the Premiership semi-finals in 2003 and 2004.

World Cup glory came Saints' way too with the quartet of Paul Grayson, Matt Dawson, Steve Thompson and Ben Cohen all coming home from Australia in November 2003 with winners' medals around their neck.

The fabric of the Club was quite literally changing too, thanks to a multi-million pound redevelopment of Franklin's Gardens that took capacity up to 13,500 and took the stadium to the very forefront of dedicated Club rugby facilities in Europe.

But as the decade wore on the promise of the Steele and Smith years melted away. Relegation was narrowly avoided in 2005, and although 2005/06 saw the arrival of All Black Carlos Spencer and Heineken Cup qualification, it proved to be a false start. The 2006/07 season was notable for two things; the biggest quarter-final win in Heineken Cup history away at Biarritz, quickly followed by relegation to National League One.

Again this ended up being a catalyst for change. In came Jim Mallinder as director of rugby, who brought with him Dorian West as forwards coach. The duo arrived fresh from Churchill Cup glory with England Saxons, and quickly went to work at club level.

Like their previous visit to the second tier, Saints went through the entire season undefeated. This time however it was a mammoth 35-game campaign that included a National Trophy victory at Twickenham in front of nearly 20,000 Saints supporters.

The league trophy was lifted in front of a packed house at Franklin's Gardens, and the ground became a fortress for Saints again once they were back in the Premiership. An excellent home record – just one defeat and one draw in 11 games – was the foundation for league consolidation. But it was in Europe where Saints really came alive, winning all nine games in the European Challenge Cup to both lift a major piece of silverware and guarantee a place back among Europe's elite.

Mallinder continued to strengthen his squad and following the Anglo-Welsh Cup win in March 2010, Saints kicked on again.

A second Heineken Cup title was cruelly taken away by Leinster in a classic final at the Millennium Stadium, and there was a second Anglo-Welsh Cup final in three years. Then in 2013 Saints stunned the Premiership by winning away at Saracens to reach their first ever league final. Like the Cardiff showdown two years earlier however, the clash against Leicester in front of 82,600 at Twickenham ended agonizingly with runners-up medals for Saints.

On the international front, a Club record eight players represented four countries at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. And when Stephen Myler came off the bench for England in Buenos Aires in the summer of 2013, the total of six Saints who saw action that day became another Club record.

With British & Irish Lions George North and Alex Corbisiero joining those internationals, excitement was the predominant emotion ahead of the 2013/14 season.

And this anticipation proved to be well placed ahead of a season full of highlights. When Saints triumphed in an epic Premiership semi-final against Leicester at Franklin's Gardens, you could sense something special was on the horizon. In eight memorable days the European Challenge Cup and then the Premiership trophies were won by the team, and celebrated wildly in the town – with over 30,000 supporters turning out for an open-top bus parade.

Saints flourished again the following season, finishing in top spot in the Premiership table for the first time, but fell out of the competition in the semi-finals to Saracens – whom they had beaten at Twickenham 12 months beforehand.

The side then stuttered somewhat to fifth, seventh and ninth place finishes in the seasons that followed, with Saints making the decision to part company with long-standing director of rugby Mallinder in December 2017.

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