Tom Vickers’ Wasps v Saints preview

The Saints players may have been nursing sore heads last Sunday, but they simply cannot afford a Dublin hangover at Adams Park this weekend.

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 20th December 2013, 11:51 am
NO REPEAT REQUIRED - Harlequins caught Saints cold a year ago following Jim Mallinder's men's Heineken Cup win in Ulster (Picture: Linda Dawson)
NO REPEAT REQUIRED - Harlequins caught Saints cold a year ago following Jim Mallinder's men's Heineken Cup win in Ulster (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Jim Mallinder rightly told his men to get on the beers after Saturday’s stunning 18-9 Heineken Cup win against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

They had, after all, claimed one of the most impressive wins in their club’s history and were in a city known for its ability to throw a good party.

But it was back to work on Monday morning, with a reminder of what happened last time Saints claimed a memorable European win on Irish soil.

Last December, they upset the odds to defeat Ulster at Ravenhill, with the 10-9 victory breaking the Belfast side’s four-year unbeaten record.

Just a week later, though, it was Saints who were left reeling on their own turf as Harlequins headed to Franklin’s Gardens and claimed an 18-9 win.

Northampton were below-par that day, struggling to get into their stride and only having three penalties to show for their efforts.

Quins played a clever game, exploiting their opponents and refusing to be overawed by a team who should still have been on a high from their Belfast brilliance.

Saints came crashing back down to earth with a bump, and it has been made clear to them this week that they must be on the money if they are to return to league action with a win.

Though they remain in the hunt in the Heineken Cup thanks to last weekend’s success, Northampton’s best chance of major silverware remains in the Premiership.

They currently sit second thanks to a record that has seen them lose just once this season, at Gloucester.

And with Saracens taking on Leicester and Bath hosting Harlequins this weekend, they have the chance to make their bid for the Christmas No.1 spot.

It is a pivotal round of action which is not for the faint-hearted.

Wasps will, of course, be no pushovers, defending their own turf ferociously.

They have already tamed the Tigers at Adams Park this season and will be eager to improve on the seventh place they currently occupy.

Saints, though, should have more than enough, if they bring the sort of game they took to Dublin last weekend.

That performance will be the benchmark for the remainder of the campaign and Mallinder will expect nothing less from his men every time they run out.

There will be hiccups along the way, but Saints will be eager to make sure the fizz of last weekend doesn’t turn flat on Saturday afternoon.