Instead of the Saints it will be Saracens running out at Franklin’s Gardens next Sunday afternoon to face either Leicester or Exeter in the first showpiece occasion of 2015, after the Men in Black’s stunning third quarter performance put them far enough in front to withstand a late fightback from the visitors at Allianz Park.
Sam Olver’s 13 first half points - coming from a try, a conversion and two penalties - had put Saints eight up at the break. But Saracens scored through Mike Ellery 90 seconds after the re-start, and with Ben Spencer landing three quickfire penalties the hosts, whose captain Maro Itoje put in an impressive man of the match performance, eased themselves clear.
Lee Dickson’s converted try 10 minutes from time gave Saints hope, but Nils Mordt landed a drop goal and the travellers just could not get over the whitewash in the final seconds for the try they needed.
The quietness in the Saints’ dressing room at full-time told the whole story, and Mallinder’s disappointment was palpable, especially given that the final would have been on home turf.
“It would have been ideal for us, and had been something that we’d been targeting,” he said. “So we’re very disappointed. We came down here to win but we came up short.
“It’s still been a good competition, and we’ve used a lot of players in our five games, but we wanted to go one stage further.”
Mallinder also acknowledged that with hindsight the eight-point half-time lead was not enough given the wind at the team’s backs in the first 40 minutes.
“I think we played pretty well in the first half,” he said. There were a few mistakes but generally we were on top and getting on the front foot.
“But we didn’t go in as far ahead as we should have done, and with the breeze behind us we’d have wanted a couple more scores. And conceding that try at the start of the second half was poor. They got their heads up from that, and while we came back into the game it was too late.
“Saracens defended really well and slowed our ball down. They kicked well and put us under pressure, but we didn’t play as well today as we could have done for 80 minutes.”
Of course Saints have experience of using LV= Cup disappointment as a springboard to success in the final third of the season, and added that he was looking for more of the same in 2015.
“We take the competition seriously because we want to win and we want to challenge,” he said. “But we’re still in a good place and fighting on two fronts, and we need to make sure we learn a few lessons from today, stick together and move on.”
The Saints are back in action on Friday, March 27th, hosting Wasps in an Aviva Premiership clash that is crucial for both teams’ play-off ambitions. Tickets are on sale now for this game, and for the big Aviva Premiership game against Saracens at stadiummk on Saturday, April 25th.
To book tickets for both of these games head to www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/buytickets