Tom Vickers’ Saracens v Saints view: Belief the buzzword for Mallinder’s men

BIG WIN - Saints stopped Ulster in their tracks in December and will need to believe they can do the same to Saracens on Sunday (picture by William Cherry/Presseye)
BIG WIN - Saints stopped Ulster in their tracks in December and will need to believe they can do the same to Saracens on Sunday (picture by William Cherry/Presseye)

Any Saints fan wanting to remain in a positive state of mind ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Saracens would be well advised to avoid any statistics in the build-up to the game.

They certainly don’t make good reading for anyone of a Northampton persuasion, so look away now if you don’t want to feel the effects.

Sarries have won all six of their games at their new home at Copthall, Allianz Park, and have won their past three matches against Saints, who have not tasted success on Saracens’ soil since February 2004.

Northampton have made it to five previous Premiership semi-finals and lost all of them, including three in a row.

And the last time they met Saracens in one of those, they were edged out 21-19 at Franklin’s Gardens in May 2010.

But – and this is what must be remembered – history is just that. It’s in the past. It cannot be affected.

What Saints can affect is the future and, though they only finished fourth in the regular season’s standings, it’s all still up for grabs.

And all runs, good or bad, must come to an end at some point.

Saracens may have past results on their side. They may have topped the standings, but the current format of the Premiership means they’ve won nothing yet.

And they have one thing Saints will be glad not to possess: Pressure.

Very few people in the rugby world will expect an away win at Allianz Park this weekend.

Up crop those statistics again: Only three times in the past 17 games has an away side won a Premiership play-off semi-final.

And Saints have not beaten a member of the league’s top three – Sarries, Leicester and Harlequins – in their past 11 games against them. Everything, it seems, is stacked in Saracens’ favour.

But remember when Ulster took aim at Ravenhill in November, only to miss their shot and see Saints escape from Belfast with a stunning 10-9 win under their belts?

Jim Mallinder’s underdogs have done it before. They’ve fought back when everyone has told them their bark was worse than their bite.

What they must do on Sunday is front up from the start. Just as they did at Ravenhill, they must foster a siege mentality. Get the belief going early and maintain that intensity.

They must also believe.

It was not quality that prevailed when Harlequins slayed Saints at The Stoop in last season’s semi-final.

Or when Saracens beat them in 2010.

Even the defeat to Leicester in 2011 could have gone either way, with Saints also preparing for a Heineken Cup final a week later.

The margins are so fine, just as they were in Belfast.

Believe and Saints can come through Sunday’s game.

Let old fears resurface and defeat will almost surely follow.

And why shouldn’t Saints believe? They have crushed the citadels of Ulster, Gloucester, Exeter, London Wasps and others.

They have form on their travels. They like a challenge.

At Milton Keynes in December, they were the width of a crossbar away from putting the boot into Saracens.

If Stephen Myler’s mighty effort had had just a little more power, it would have produced a fine success and ripped up Saints’ poor recent record against one of their rivals.

As it is, the past continues to be seen as having an affect on the future.

Saints will now look to separate the two by bucking recent trends, laying the bad statistics to rest and ensuring it is they who book their place at Twickenham in less than two weeks’ time.