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Tom Vickers’ Saints view: Top-two finish still on the table for Mallinder’s men

Saints scrap it out with Exeter at Franklin's Gardens in September (picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints scrap it out with Exeter at Franklin's Gardens in September (picture: Linda Dawson)

Played five, won four, lost one. That’s Saints’ record against Exeter, since the Chiefs promotion to England’s top flight in 2010.

And considering how well the side from Sandy Park have done since hitting the big time, that run is not to be sniffed at.

Saints will need to add more gloss to it this weekend as they go west looking to paint themselves back into the picture for a play-off spot.

But Jim Mallinder’s men shouldn’t settle for just a place in the top four. They still be looking at the top two.

It may look a way off now but Saints have to believe they are capable of making up their eight-point deficit to second-placed Saracens.

If they can become the first side to win at Sandy Park in the league this season on Saturday, they have a real chance.

Saints have already played Sarries, Leicester and Gloucester away, winning once and picking up two losing bonus points.

And if they can go to Exeter and get at least four points they will have done better than both Quins and Sarries, who both lost there.

It would set the record straight and provide a shot in the arm for fixtures during the Six Nations, which are likely to be as unpredictable as ever with so many players on international duty.

Yes, Saints still have to go to Harlequins, but they go there on the final day, when the men from The Stoop could already have sealed a top two spot, or even the regular season crown.

Saints still have to play top-four rivals Gloucester, Leicester and Bath at home and after the trip to Exeter they go to Worcester, London Wasps and London Welsh.

There is no reason to think the team which won at Kingsholm and The Rec earlier this season can’t get victories in those games to catapult themselves into contention.

And if they sort their home form out, which has been far from great of late, losing four of the last five games in all competitions, Saints could just surprise a few people.

But to do that, Exeter must be beaten again this weekend.

 

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