Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Harlequins preview

Phil Dowson stressed the point during his pre-match interview – and it was hard to disagree.

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 25th April 2014, 12:00 pm
UP FOR THE CUP - Phil Dowson wants Saints to 'throw everything' at the Amlin Challenge Cup (Picture: Linda Dawson)
UP FOR THE CUP - Phil Dowson wants Saints to 'throw everything' at the Amlin Challenge Cup (Picture: Linda Dawson)

“Why not throw everything at every game now?” said the flanker. “Send the cavalry in in the Premiership and the Amlin.”

Saints have done that, resisting the urge to make sizeable changes to their starting 15 for Friday night’s clash with Harlequins.

They may be leaving Luther Burrell, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood on the bench, but you can bet they will play their part.

And as for the 15 that will start the game, it contains an abundance of first-team regulars, gunning for silverware.

Harlequins have named a similarly strong side and it promises to be a cracker at Franklin’s Gardens.

Both teams know that they need some reward from a season in which they have shown some blistering form at times.

Quins have come to the party later than Saints, but they’re certainly throwing some shapes now.

They’ve made their move towards the Premiership play-off dancefloor in recent weeks and still have a chance of making the top four.

Saints are already guaranteed their place, but know a home game in mid-May would be much more beneficial.

So there is still work for both teams to do if they are to achieve their league ambitions, but, as the clock ticks down on this campaign, both know it would be criminal not to end with a trophy.

The Challenge Cup may not be the most prestigious of tournaments – it’s the Susan Boyle to the Heineken Cup’s Beyonce – but it does offer a chance.

It offers a chance to stand on a podium at Cardiff on the fourth weekend of May and spray Champagne, the beverage of champions.

It also offers momentum.

The chance to maintain good form, as Quins will be looking to do, or to lift a team after a testing run of results.

Saints are the latter as they still seek a return to their richest seam of form following a difficult time in the Premiership.

A win on Friday night, to back up Sunday’s rollercoaster success against London Irish, would be a big boost going into the final two league games.

It would give everyone at the club another final to look forward to and perhaps take a little pressure off the assault on the Premiership.

As has been said many times, league glory remains top of the agenda, but a Challenge Cup success would at least ensure it is not a trophyless campaign.

Leinster’s quality shone through last season as they won both the Challenge Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12, and Saints have similar ability in their squad.

Now, as Dowson makes clear, it’s time to go for it.