Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Harlequins preview

HIGH FIVE - Jamie Elliott and Luther Burrell celebrate Saints' win against Saracens in October (Picture: Linda Dawson)
HIGH FIVE - Jamie Elliott and Luther Burrell celebrate Saints' win against Saracens in October (Picture: Linda Dawson)

At one point, you couldn’t see where the next win was coming from.

By the time they headed to Saracens for last May’s Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final, Saints had failed to beat any of that season’s top three in eight attempts.

Meetings with Leicester, Harlequins and Sarries came and went with little to shout about.

But on that day at Allianz Park, Saints smashed the hoodoo to pieces.

They showed desire, skill and composure to finally see off one of their regular rivals.

And although the final didn’t quite go as planned, with Saints reduced to 14 men and Leicester claiming the silverware, Jim Mallinder’s men had shown they meant business.

Since then, they have gone from strength to strength and ahead of Quins’ trip to Franklin’s Gardens this Friday belief has never been higher.

Saracens, Leicester and Quins have all had a crack at Saints this season, and none of them have reigned victorious.

Quins were slayed in soggy conditions at The Stoop back in September, Leicester were held to a draw at Welford Road in October and Saracens were crushed at the Gardens later that month.

If those teams represented something of a stumbling block before, they don’t any more.

Saints have hurdled them this season and will be expected to do so again on Friday night.

A win would be a great way to start the year, with 2013 having ended on the happiest of notes thanks to the 43-25 battering of Bath last Saturday.

That performance encapsulated everything Saints are about these days, as they showed spirit and a plenty of style to see off one of their top-four rivals.

Their big signings, George North and Kahn Fotuali’i, in particular, are stepping up to the plate after taking time to settle in.

Both men came to the fore last Saturday, putting in performances that drove their team to victory.

North starts again on Friday, with Fotuali’i providing strength from the bench, giving Lee Dickson the chance to do battle with his brother, Karl.

It will be one of many intriguing sub-plots in a story that is sure to excite.

And if Saints continue to show the same steel against Quins as they have in their other meetings with English rugby’s big guns this season, there should be a happy ending.