Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Gloucester preview

Games against Gloucester have had something of a catalytic effect on Saints’ fortunes in recent times.

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 28th February 2014, 1:32 pm
LATE DRAMA - the Saints forwards look on in dismay as Martin Fox awards a last-gasp penalty to Gloucester (Pictures: Linda Dawson/Hannah Weeley)
LATE DRAMA - the Saints forwards look on in dismay as Martin Fox awards a last-gasp penalty to Gloucester (Pictures: Linda Dawson/Hannah Weeley)

Last season, Jim Mallinder’s men marched on Kingsholm for the Premiership curtain-raiser, claiming a win that set them on the path to a record of five successive league victories.

But, just five months later, Saints were on a very different track. A road to nowhere, it seemed.

A 27-11 defeat to the Cherry and Whites at Franklin’s Gardens in early February was the campaign’s nadir, but it ended up giving the team the reboot they needed, inspiring four successive league wins.

That eventually led to a Premiership final appearance, despite a couple more bumps being encountered on the road to Twickenham.

Saints may not have claimed the silverware in the showpiece last May, but they’re going the right way about it this season.

Because after the late defeat at Kingsholm back in September, they have remained unbeaten in league action.

The defeat at Gloucester on a sunny west country day seems a long time ago, following a draw at Welford Road and the succeeding 10 successive Premiership victories.

So much so, seeking revenge is not top of Saints’ agenda this weekend. Instead, all the talk is of maintaining a sizzling hot streak which has catapulted them to the top of the standings.

And if they can do that, they will remain in a good place ahead of a laundry list of onerous fixtures at the back end of this season.

After Gloucester, comes an LV= Cup semi-final against Saracens. Then, there could be a final, followed by Premiership games against Sale, Leicester and Saracens.

And don’t forget the Amlin Challenge Cup, which will see Saints return to Salford to take on Sale in the first week of April.

It’s a run that could be viewed with trepidation, but it won’t be by this Gardens group, who prefer to show fortitude rather than fear.

Firstly, though, victory against Gloucester this weekend is essential.

Memories of that defeat at Kingsholm have already been wiped away. Wins do wonders for ensuring you look forward rather than back.

But Saints would still, undoubtedly, like to set the record straight.

Gloucester are the only team to beat them in the Premiership and are one of two clubs – along with that pesky bunch from up the M1 – who have had the better of Northampton in recent times.

The Cherry and Whites have only been beaten in two of their past seven meetings with Saints, so it’s a stumbling block that Mallinder’s men would love to overcome.

And if they can, they will hope for another sizeable Gloucester-inspired knock-on effect in the weeks that follow.