Tom Vickers’ Amlin Challenge Cup Final Preview: Saints v Bath Rugby

BIG NIGHT - Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder (Picture: Linda Dawson)
BIG NIGHT - Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints removed a sizeable monkey from their back last weekend, now it’s time to shed another.

By beating Leicester, Jim Mallinder’s men ended a near four-year curse of derby-day disappointment.

On Friday night, they get the chance to banish more demons. They get the opportunity to brush off their ‘bridesmaids’ tag.

Some have cruelly dubbed them that as they have come so close to celebrating on big days, only to fall on their way down the aisle.

Since that fateful day in Cardiff in 2011, when Saints sampled the most acute of European agony, three finals have come and gone without success.

It was almost as if that Heineken Cup showpiece defeat to Leinster was a damnation. A confinement to misery from that day forward.

Two LV= Cup final losses and Premiership final heartache at the hands of Leicester have followed.

It has been tough to take for those of a Northampton persuasion and no one more so than the players involved.

They have stood by as opposition teams have danced on their dreams.

They have walked past the silverware knowing it could have, and perhaps should have, been them.

Now, though, they have two finals to look forward to in the space of eight days.

Two trophy chances that they will be desperate not to pass up.

It has been said before that it would be criminal for these players to head off on their holidays empty-handed.

They have shown so much ability and poise to get to this point of the season. Now they have to make it count.

The Premiership, as it always has been, remains top of the to-do list, but Amlin Challenge Cup success would be the perfect appertif.

It would whet the appetite for another, much bigger celebration the following weekend.

And, crucially, it would get that monkey off this club’s back.

The fact Saints head back to Cardiff in the bid to crush the final hoodoo will not be lost on many.

In the shadow of the Millennium Stadium, where that second-half evisceration by the Irish took place, Saints can create a bright new future.

They can put a piece of silverware in a trophy cabinet that has gathered nothing but dust in recent years.

And they can continue to build confidence that the big one, the Premiership trophy, will join the Challenge Cup at Franklin’s Gardens soon after.

It cannot be underestimated what a boost it would be to beat Bath and continue the momentum garnered from the win against Tigers.

Saints would head into the Premiership final full of beans, with a double bid still alive.

These players have earned this chance.

They went to Sale on a gloomy Thursday night in April and produced a huge performance.

They followed it up with an immense display against Harlequins in the semi-final at the Gardens.

Now they need to go again. They need another big push as they bid to keep the engine running for Twickenham.

Saints know they can do it.

After all, if they can overcome the psychological barrier erected by Leicester, anything is possible.