Saints in good shape for big Bath battle, says Mallinder

Jim Mallinder (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Jim Mallinder (picture: Sharon Lucey)

When he spoke about this week’s game against Bath, Stephen Myler was quick to point out the fine lines between what is perceived as success and failure.

Myler was discussing the fact that his side had been beaten by the west country outfit on the opening day of the season.

And he made the point that had Saints turned possession into points that day, they would now be sitting above fourth-placed Bath in the Aviva Premiership standings.

While the men in blue and white have been seen to have a fine league season so far, Saints’ own campaign has, in some quarters, been viewed as below-par.

And that one result, the 18-14 defeat at Franklin’s Gardens on the opening day of the season, has perhaps played a big part in aiding those perceptions.

“That’s one of the ironic things really,” said Saints boss Jim Mallinder at this week’s media session. “Everyone’s said we’ve had a terrible season and Bath have had a superb season.

“But these next four weeks are going to be quite defining for us in terms of where we end up and if we can get a win on Friday, it pushes us to where we want to be.

“We’re in pretty good shape.

“You never quite know what shape you’re in until you actually get into those league games.

“We’ve swapped the team around a little bit, starting with Montpellier away. We made a few changes there and that’s gone through the previous couple of weeks.

“We’ve given people a rest who need it, got a few people back in action at the weekend and we’ll be putting as strong a side out as we can for Friday night.”

So just how rueful is Mallinder about what happened in the Premiership curtain-raiser back in September?

“It was a massive disappointment,” said the director of rugby. “We got it wrong to a certain extent.

“You do lots of things in pre-season, work on lots of moves with the ball in hand and we probably overplayed our hand a little bit whereas Bath, particularly in the opposition third, took their chances.

“They played for penalties, took two drop goals on top of that as well and we played a bit too much in the opposition third, getting turned over.

“It was ultimately a game we could have won so that was a big disappointment but hopefully we’ve learned our lessons and we can put it right on Friday.”

Saints were big winners at the Gardens last Friday as they smashed Scarlets 50-10 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

But it wasn’t enough for Mallinder’s men to book a place in the semi-finals as Saracens beat Leicester Tigers on Sunday to top Pool 1 and dump Saints out of the tournament.

“It was disappointing not to qualify, we really did want to progress, but we won three games out of four and the win up at Newcastle was a real good win, with lots of youngsters involved,” Mallinder said.

“Last week, the win against Scarlets was a good performance. Even though they had a relatively inexperienced team, they were there to be beaten and we were happy with that.

“We’re just disappointed Leicester couldn’t go down to Saracens and beat them.

“Now we’ve just got the league to focus on and we’ve got to make sure we stay in this competition.”