Tom Vickers’ Saints v Sale preview: Prop idols aim to go out with a bang

END OF AN ERA - Brian Mujati (left) and Soane Tonga'uiha will make their final Franklin's Gardens appearances for Saints on Saturday (Picture: Linda Dawson)
END OF AN ERA - Brian Mujati (left) and Soane Tonga'uiha will make their final Franklin's Gardens appearances for Saints on Saturday (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints will be out to banish any anxieties of another sad day at The Stoop when they take on Sale on Saturday evening.

Jim Mallinder’s men, as has been pointed out by the boss and scrum-half Lee Dickson this week, want to guarantee a top-four spot as soon as possible.

They are desperate not to let the play-off bid drag into the final day of the season, when a trip to Premiership champions Harlequins beckons.

If you’ve forgotten what happened last time Saints went there – and you’ve probably tried pretty hard to - here’s a brief reminder.

Mallinder’s men played a blinder and Dickson’s late score meant they lead 23-15 with just 10 minutes to go.

Saints were on the brink of the Premiership final, but surrendered in the latter stages as a Joe Marler try and five points from the boot of Nick Evans saw Quins win 25-23 to clinch a place in the showpiece.

Saints were a picture of desolation, slumped on the turf with departing players shedding tears, knowing that was the last time they would wear the green, black and gold.

A repeat this time round, almost a year to the day of the last meeting, would not be palatable and that is why this weekend is so essential.

If Gloucester fail to pick up at least a point at home to Saracens, Saints’ top-four spot is secure.

But if the Cherry and Whites win, Northampton must make sure they do the business against the Sharks to ensure things aren’t left until May 4.

Memories of that last sorry day at The Stoop will still hurt, and reminders of it will be everywhere in a couple of weeks’ time.

But Saints have destiny in their own hands, and that final-day fixture can be a fun-filled one if they do the hard yards to see off the Sharks.

Another point about this weekend’s game is that it is the final time the Franklin’s Gardens faithful will get to see the likes of Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati, barring returns in the Heineken Cup.

It should be a special day, celebrating the careers of players who have graced the Gardens, stamping some lasting memories on the famous turf.

The prop idols have done so much for Saints during their time at the club, becoming iconic characters.

And it would be a fitting way to end their time in Northampton should they propel the team to victory this weekend and ensure they remain in with a shout of lifting the Premiership trophy.