Tom Vickers’ Premiership final preview: Tigers the favourites, but Saints couldn’t care less

SIEGE MENTALITY - Saints put up their 'Why not us?' banner in the away dressing room at Allianz Park and proceeded to smash Saracens
SIEGE MENTALITY - Saints put up their 'Why not us?' banner in the away dressing room at Allianz Park and proceeded to smash Saracens

Saints really are rubbish.

They play a boring style of rugby, they struggle against the big sides and they never win the major prizes.

Saracens, Leicester and Harlequins are better than them. In fact, they were lucky to even get in the top four.

As Stuart Barnes said: “They are the best of the rest.”

And the chances of them beating Leicester at Twickenham this weekend? Surely zero.

The Tigers are too strong, the odds are on their side and so is the recent form. They’ve won the past seven meetings between the teams, you know.

More disappointment awaits for Jim Mallinder’s dismal side.

Didn’t think you’d read that here, did you?

Well, the reason for this negative rhetoric is because it is fully expected to be music to the ears of the Saints players.

They just love criticism. In fact, they take it, chew it up and spit it out.

They love being underdogs, and relish biting back even more.

No one gave them a hope at Saracens. What happened? They took the Fezheads to task, smashing them all over Allianz Park.

Now they face their toughest test: an east midlands derby at Twickenham.

On paper, once again, their chances look slim.

But as it’s often said - the game isn’t played on paper. Just ask Saracens.

Mark McCall’s coaching staff did their talking off the pitch. Alex Sanderson said there was no love lost between the sides. Paul Gustard cheekily predicted six to eight tries in his pre-match television interview.

And they were soon left to rue those comments as Saints rocked up, put up their ‘why not us?’ banner in the changing room and proceeded to fly into the final.

It wasn’t the first time Saints had shut people up.

Eight days after being eviscerated by Ulster at Franklin’s Gardens, they went to Belfast and beat the Irish side on their own turf.

No one had seen it coming. Some journalists had already written their pieces. They were quickly torn up when Ruan Pienaar fired a late penalty wide of the posts.

Then, after successive December defeats to Harlequins and Saracens, Mallinder’s men appeared to be drinking in the Premiership’s late chance saloon as they headed to Exeter.

What happened? They crushed the Chiefs’ unbeaten home league record with a 30-19 uprising at Sandy Park.

In February, an LV= Cup crash back at Exeter and a home hammering by Gloucester saw the club seemingly hit crisis time.

Chairman Leon Barwell came out and backed Mallinder, stating there was no need for change at the Gardens.

What happened? Saints reacted in style, mauling Worcester to death at Sixways before going on to win their next three games.

Then came the Leicester loss. The harshest of the season, as the Tigers roared to claim a 36-8 win at Northampton.

The fans voted with their feet, leaving the Gardens with more than 10 minutes to go.

What happened? Saints reacted by walloping London Welsh and Sale to book their place in the top four.

And here they are, with Twickenham in their eyeline. Who’d have thought it, eh?

Now, though, Saints need a new motivation. Something else to help rev them up for the final showdown.

Luckily, they need look no further than Saturday’s opposition.

Leicester, who unlike Saracens have been careful not to rile Saints in the build-up to 
the final, have enjoyed east midlands bragging rights for far too long.

Tigers fans have worn their shirts with pride in the face of Saints co-workers the week after recent meetings.

Now it’s time to turn the tables.

To do that, Saints will need to start strong at Twickenham. Stop the Tigers building belief.

Northampton raced into a 17-0 lead at Saracens and didn’t look back. They will need a big effort from minute one to do the same on Saturday.

But if they can get on top early and foster the siege mentality they have shown during the toughest of times this season, Saints can do it.

Put simply, they’re not quite as rubbish as they feel they’ve been made to sound this season.

Why not them, indeed.