Aviva Premiership: Jim Mallinder hails Saints after beating Sarries in final
Aviva Premiership: Jim Mallinder insists his Northampton Saints side are not done winning trophies yet after their final win
Jim Mallinder insists his current crop of Northampton Saints are not done winning trophies yet after edging an extra-time thriller against Saracens in the Aviva Premiership Final.
With the score deadlocked at 14-14 at the final whistle, the sides met for another 20 minutes of extra time – a first in an Aviva Premiership final.
Replacement Charlie Hodgson had seemingly done enough to clinch the title with a second-half penalty kick, but Saints’ own sub Alex Waller burrowed over the line for a 100th-minute try to crush Sarries hearts by 24-20.
I think it’s fantastic for the club, it’s our first Premiership title, and particularly after coming close twice last year and in the Heineken Cup, it is a special moment
It is Northampton’s first-ever Aviva Premiership trophy and adds to their Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over Bath Rugby last weekend.
And Mallinder is in no doubt that Saints’ big-game experience will continue to pay off for years to come after banishing the memories of last year’s Aviva Premiership final defeat at the hands of Leicester Tigers.
“I think it’s a real sense of belief to get over and win,” director of rugby Mallinder said. “We were pleased to win last week’s Amlin but I think this week was always at the top of the agenda.
“I think it’s fantastic for the club, it’s our first Premiership title, and particularly after coming close twice last year and in the Heineken Cup, it is a special moment.
“It’s why you come to a big club like Northampton to win trophies like this.
“We’ve generally been on the up over the past seven years, we’ve had a couple of disappointments but we always talked after the disappointments that when we won a big one it would be sweeter and it is.
“I think the experience playing in big games, we’re getting used to playing big games, the senior internationals are playing more games here at international rugby.
“It was a real tight game between two good sides. I think at times our scrambled defence was outstanding.
“They’ve got some big ball carriers who can get them on the front foot and we had to fight really, really hard to keep them at bay.”
And according to Mallinder, the celebrations in Northampton will not be wrapping up early.
He added: “I certainly know that we will be having a few beers on the bus back to Northampton and I would expect there will be a few fans waiting to join us.”
Saints were heading for victory in normal time after Ben Foden and George Pisi had given them the advantage, but Marcelo Bosch found space to crash over in the last ten minutes.
Sarries could have won it if not for Hodgson’s missed conversion – crashing back off the upright – and director of rugby Mark McCall believes the game’s small margins decided an otherwise excellent season for his side.
“It’s obviously a very painful way for the game to finish the way it finished,” said McCall. “It felt that nothing went our way but I thought our players were unbelievably courageous, unbelievably brave. I thought we played well as well but it just felt like one of those days.
“It’s been a brilliant season for us. It’s unbelievably disappointing that it ended the way that it ended but as a club we’re incredibly strong and healthy moving forwards.
“There are two competitions that we’re interested in, the Heineken Cup and this competition. Today was our fourth final in five years and we had seven semi-finals in those two competitions.
“We talk about consistency a lot and we brought that and I know this group of players and I know this will be painful but it won’t be a set-back because a set-back only occurs if you’re less together, less tight, less hungry to improve.
“I think we’ve definitely improved in the last 12 months – the evidence is there for everyone to see – and I’m sure we’ll kick on from this as well.”