Mallinder says home comfort in play-offs is crucial for Saints

HOME IS SWEET - Saints coach Jim Mallinder (Picture: Fatima Mirzai)
HOME IS SWEET - Saints coach Jim Mallinder (Picture: Fatima Mirzai)

Jim Mallinder has stressed Saints must secure home advantage in the Aviva Premiership play-off semi-finals.

Sunday’s LV= Cup final defeat to Exeter Chiefs at their Sandy Park home reaffirmed the importance of home comforts in one-off matches.

And Saints are now eager to make sure they secure a top-two spot in the Premiership standings.

Mallinder’s men are currently top of the table, two points clear of second-placed Saracens and 15 ahead of Bath and Leicester, who are joint third.

And the Saints boss, who this week welcomed six Six Nations stars back into the Franklin’s Gardens fold, said: “We’re disappointed that we lost the final, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

“We’ve had a tremendous run, we’ve still got a great team and what we can now look forward to is we’ve got some cavalry coming back.

“We’re in a good place and we’re just fighting on the two fronts, narrowing our focus.

“The Premiership is key for us. We’re top of the league at the moment and we’ve really got to see if we can get that home semi-final because, as we found on Sunday, that home advantage does make a difference.”

Saints had won 13 successive games before Exeter ended that run last weekend.

And Northampton will now look to start another hot streak when they head to Sale Sharks in the league on Saturday.

“We have done well and Exeter aren’t anywhere near as disrupted as we are with players away,” said Mallinder.

“But that’s what we know about this time of the year and, overall, we’ve been very happy with how we’ve done over this period.

“We’re disappointed to lose this one-off game, but it was always going to be a one-off and could go either way.

“We’re looking forward, with confidence, to the rest of the season.”