Northampton's director of rugby Jim Mallinder challenged his players to gain revenge on Saracens next weekend after seeing his team secure a home semi-final in the play-offs with a convincing 31-7 victory over London Irish in the Guinness Premiership.
There is no love lost between Saints and Sarries, who angered Mallinder's squad with some over-the-top celebrations in the dressing room after a win at Franklin's Gardens last month. Mallinder will now use that incident as motivation as Northampton look to clinch a place in the Premiership final, against either Leicester or Bath. "That hurt, hearing them singing as if they'd won the league," Mallinder said. "You can take motivation from a lot of things and we're eagerly looking forward to that game now."
Northampton bounced back from two successive defeats to over-run Irish at the Madejski Stadium, with centre Jon Clarke scoring two tries and wing Chris Ashton another. Stephen Myler kicked the rest of the points for Saints, who finished the regular season in second place.
Bryan Redpath, the Gloucester head coach, admitted that his side have underachieved this season after finishing seventh. A last-second drop-goal that hit the post saved the Cherry and Whites from going down against already-relegated Worcester at Sixways as they earned a 23-22 victory. Tries from flanker Akapusi Qera, wing Lesley Vainikolo and hooker Scott Lawson plus eight points from Nicky Robinson's boot were enough to settle the game in Gloucester's favour. Wing Chris Pennell and centre Alex Grove crossed for Worcester before a third try from fly-half Joe Carlisle set up a grandstand finish, which led to that attempted drop-goal from Willie Walker.
Redpath said: "We made hard work of it and I think that was the worst we have played since October."
Harlequins saw off Sale Sharks 35-20, wtih Quins' Saracens-bound England wing David Strettle marking his farewell with a try.
Meanwhile, Exeter strolled into the final of the Championship play-offs, beating Bedford 37-8, and will now meet Bristol – 28-15 victors over London Welsh – for the right to join the Premiership.Reuse content