After suffering defeat to a strong Exeter Chiefs outfit yesterday at Sandy Park, Saints head into next weekend's final Aviva Premiership league game of the season with Harlequins needing the win to secure the chance to play European Champions Cup rugby next season.
Jim Mallinder said that the effort Saints showed, especially in defence, in Exeter was admirable but that the Chiefs showed why they are challenging at the top of the table in their win.
"We were second best today," Mallinder told BT Sport after the game.
"Even playing with the wind we never really got much field position. Exeter kept over the ball and put us under a lot of pressure.
"I don't know exactly how many tackles we made but that number will be high and I actually think we defended pretty well at times. But all credit to Exeter."
Going into next weekend's clash with Harlequins, Mallinder said that while Saints are keeping an eye on Gloucester's results, they know that they must secure victory next weekend if they are to stay in the top-flight of European rugby next season.
"We know next week is going to be a big one but there's still no guarantee for sixth with Gloucester being there or there abouts as well and they are playing tomorrow.
"We wanted to come down here and get a result and unfortunately we've not done that so next week is going to be massive."
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