Two weeks after securing top spot for the first time in the Saints’ history the campaign was ended at Franklin’s Gardens against a physical and competitive Saracens outfit that both took their chances and aggressively prevented the hosts from getting into their stride.
“Obviously we were proud and happy to finish top of the league for the first time in the club’s history, but there’s disappointment now,” Mallinder told SaintsTV. “You want to do it to get a home semi-final and give yourself every chance of getting through to a Twickenham final. We came close, but were just not quite good enough.”
Saints could not have had a worse start. David Strettle exploited the space left by the injured Ahsee Tuala to open the scoring, the Samoan also having to be withdrawn. But they fought back well, scoring a penalty try in the first half and driving Tom Wood over in the second.
However Saracens got a second try themselves, Jamie George coming up from a forward rumble, and with Owen Farrell outscoring Stephen Myler by a penalty and a conversion the visitors emerged on top when the final whistle went.
“It was a disastrous start for us,” Mallinder commented. “The try was caused by us not having a full back back; Strettle saw the space and there was a very good chase. That was very disappointing, but we came back into the game well. I thought our forwards worked really hard, and we took some chances and scored some good tries. But ultimately we just didn’t have enough at the end.”
This is the first year in three that the Saints have not reached the Aviva Premiership’s showpiece occasion, with the boss admitting to having: “a strange feeling.
“You make your plans, but then you’re on holiday a bit too soon. But that’s life in knockout rugby. The last two years we’ve been on the right side of it, getting to Twickenham, but this year we haven’t. We know that even though we came top of the Premiership it’s very close. Saracens have a massive squad and they’re very competitive. We’ve done well in the past, but this time it wasn’t to be.”
And he also thanked the capacity crowd for their efforts, both on the day of the game as well as throughout a year in which every ticket has been sold for every game played at Franklin’s Gardens.
“The supporters got behind the team,” he said, “and we’re really grateful for what they’ve done. Hopefully they’ve enjoyed the season and are looking forward to coming back next year, when we can entertain and win some games. And we’re looking forward to seeing the new stand, and have some more noise!”
The season has finished, but the Saints are already looking forward to 2015/16, with Season Ticket sales considerably higher than at the same stage a year ago. There are a few days to make the most of the Early Bird booking period, so head to www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/seasontickets to download all of the information about how to book and become part of a cast of thousands in the Saints Nation!