Tom Vickers’ Aviva Premiership final preview

DRIVING FORCE - Leon Barwell (picture: Kelly Cooper)
DRIVING FORCE - Leon Barwell (picture: Kelly Cooper)

Nothing Without Labour. That was the motto by which Saints founder, Rev Samuel Wathan Wigg, led his original group of players.

And, 134 years on, the current crop, who have battled through 23 games across nine months of the league season, stand on the brink of making their own hard work pay.

Jim Mallinder’s men are one win away from glory. One win away from etching their names in the Northampton history books.

They have poured bucketloads of blood and sweat into a campaign that has brought the consistency the club craved.

Sixteen wins were accrued from 22 regular-season matches, with Saints scrapping for every single one of the 78 points they garnered.

They fought to the end to claim victory at Wasps in December.

They fought to the end to earn a win at Exeter in February.

They fought to the end in the play-off semi-final against Leicester at Franklin’s Gardens just a couple of weeks ago.

Now, though, they need to make all of their endeavours count for something. For the silverware that has eluded the club for so long.

The players and management need no reminding of what a win on Saturday would mean to everyone of a green, black and gold persuasion.

But should they desire any further inspiration, they only need look around as they go marching into Twickenham.

The players will be greeted by hordes of expectant fans, begging them to bring home the trophy.

They will be joined by young Luis Ghaut, the 12-year-old mascot, who has fought his own fight, against bone cancer.

And the return to English rugby HQ will spark memories of a man who did so much to make this and the Premiership final appearance last May happen, Leon Barwell.

Thoughts of the club’s former chairman can not be too far from the forefront of the mind this weekend.

It is almost a year since he battled bravely to stave off his illness to attend the final against Leicester.

That day, it wasn’t the result he had desired, but his pride in his team was evident.

He put an arm around skipper Dylan Hartley, as the England hooker fought the despair his red card brought.

He stayed upbeat, knowing it wouldn’t be long before Saints were back on the big stage.

And how proud Leon would be of this current bunch of players.

How proud he would be of what has been achieved since that evening at the club’s fans’ forum back in February, 2013.

That was a turning point. A reunion that brought everyone at the Gardens back together.

Leon referenced his club’s proud history at that forum. He referenced Wathan Wigg’s original motto.

He talked of the club’s desire to achieve consistency. To finally end the wait for a major trophy.

Now, Saints are 80 minutes away from fulfilling Leon’s aims.

He and so many others have worked so hard to get to this point.

It would be criminal if the fruits of their labours aren’t born out on Saturday.