Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that the Saints squad can hold their heads high after the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter final.
Saints headed to Allianz Park to face a full-strength Saracens shorn of a host of international players, with George North and Tom Wood joining Lee Dickson, Kieran Brookes, Dylan Hartley and Calum Clark on the injured list during the week.
With the likes of Jon Fisher, Sam Dickinson and Jamie Gibson also absent, Saints were forced to field a back row of Courtney Lawes, Teimana Harrison and Ben Nutley, a trio who had never played together before but who belied this lack of experience as a combination to out-shine the hosts.
Indeed Saints put in a superb opening 40 minutes, spreading the ball wide and putting pace on their game at every opportunity. They were rewarded with the game’s first try and a half-time lead, but after the break Saracens’ experience told, with their England contingent to the fore as they piled on the pressure.
But despite defeat Mallinder was proud of the attitude shown by his players.
“The back row was outstanding,” he told SaintsTV. “Courtney put in some big hits, Teimana’s carrying was immense and Ben Nutley combined that altogether with his tackling, his offloads and some carrying.
“We’ll never use injuries as an excuse. We’ve got a squad and in matches you do pick up knocks, so you’ve got to play with what you’ve got. That’s what we did today. We turned up with a positive attitude and I was really proud of the lads. They played really well.
“A lot of our leaders weren’t playing today, but that brings out the best in other people. It’s clearly frustrating and disappointing to lose such a massive game, but hopefully everyone will benefit from the experience and I’d like to see that showing in the next few games.”
It’s a big week for the Saints, who have the Mobbs Memorial Match on Wednesday evening followed by an Aviva Premiership East Midlands derby next Saturday.
Tickets for the Mobbs Memorial Match – the proceeds of which go to support youth rugby in the East Midlands through the charitable aims of the Mobbs Memorial Trust – are on sale now at www.tinyurl.com/Mobbs2016.