FLANKER Phil Dowson has urged Saints to shed their ‘nearly men’ tag this season.
Dowson and Co kick-off the new Aviva Premiership campaign at Gloucester on Saturday, hoping to make it fourth time lucky in their search for title glory.
Saints have reached the Premiership play-off semi-finals for the past three seasons, but have yet to make a grand final.
There was torment last time round as Jim Mallinder’s men surrendered an eight-point lead to lose 25-23 to Harlequins in the semi-final at The Stoop in May.
Dowson is desperate to avoid any more disappointment and the England ace wants this to be the year Saints finally get over the finishing line in first.
“From a Saints point of view last season was ultimately disappointing,” said the 30-year-old. “We put in some great performances but were pretty average in others.
“We were unlucky to lose in the semi-final of the Premiership but it was what I’d describe as a nearly year.
“We nearly beat Leicester away, but lost with the last play of the game more or less.
“We nearly beat Quins in the semi-final but lost with a driving maul in the last five minutes and we were just off the pace.
“We nearly beat Munster away from home but lost in the 97th minute so it was just a nearly year and we’ve got to make sure after falling short last year that we push on and get over it this year.”
Saints go to Gloucester this weekend looking to avenge last season’s 27-24 defeat against Bryan Redpath’s side at Kingsholm.
Redpath has switched to Sale this summer, with former Scarlets boss Nigel Davies taking up the reigns at the Cherry and Whites.
Dowson feels it will be difficult to know what to expect on Saturday but is certain Saints are in for a real test.
“That’s always very difficult because they’re an unknown opposition so you don’t really know what to expect,” he said.
“What you do know is that Gloucester have always produced great packs and they’ve got unbelievable speed behind the scrum as well so if they put those two things together they’re a very dangerous outfit.
“We don’t know how they’re going to play or what certain aspects of their game will be because they’re a fresh team but they will be tough as always and it’s a good place to go and play.”