Saints look to make up for season low point against Wasps

Jim Mallinder headed down to the side of the pitch in an attempt to spur his players on in the defeat to Wasps in January (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Jim Mallinder headed down to the side of the pitch in an attempt to spur his players on in the defeat to Wasps in January (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Jim Mallinder admits Saints’ sobering defeat to Wasps was one of the low points of his side’s season.

And the director of rugby is now hoping his men can make amends for that 24-11 loss at Franklin’s Gardens when they head to the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.

Saints saw their impressive home record against Wasps ruined, with Dai Young’s men claiming their first win at the Gardens in more than 10 years back in January.

The Coventry-based club have really kicked on in recent months, winning nine of their past 10 matches in all competitions.

And Mallinder knows the size of the challenge that awaits his players as they go in search of more precious Aviva Premiership points this weekend.

“Wasps have improved massively over the past few years,” Mallinder said.

“This season, they are the strongest (they’ve been in recent years).

“They’ve got real balance to their team in terms of their set piece.

“They’ve got some very exciting backs, but, now, they’ve got a back row who really understand the game and really add to that team.

“In (Nathan) Hughes, (George) Smith and the young English lads as well it’s a quality squad.

“They’ve become a real good all-round team.

“We look back to January when we played them here and it was probably one of the low points of our season.

“It was a horrible day, we didn’t get it right at all.

“They came here, were by far the better team and deserved to win on that night.”

Wasps scored three tries in the opening 30 minutes of that match, ripping Saints to shreds.

So disillusioned was Mallinder with his side’s display that he headed to the touchline to cajole his players.

And he said: “They took us to pieces. After 30 minutes they’d scored three tries. You don’t expect that at home and we didn’t see it coming.

“We’ve seen from Wasps this season - including that game against Saracens, which was another stand-out performance for them - what they’re capable of doing to teams.”

But Saints need to combat that this weekend if they are to enhance their chances of finishing in the Premiership top four for the seventh successive season.

There are now just four games of the regular season remaining, with Mallinder’s men also facing Leicester Tigers, Bath and Gloucester in the weeks to come.

And Mallinder said: “We’ve said it right from the start, but we’re getting down to the business end now.

“We always said that once the internationals come back, once the clocks have moved forward, this is the period where it really, really matters.

“We got off to a good start with Harlequins last week and now we’ve got this challenging game up at Wasps.”

Saints have won six of their eight matches since that chastening defeat to Wasps in January.

And Mallinder added: “We’ve been fighting all season.

“We didn’t quite get some of the performances and the results early on, but we’ve been slowly improving as a team and we’re still in there fighting.

“We’ve got a long way to go to get into the top four to guarantee a semi-final spot, but we’re still fighting in that and we’re still in the European competition.

“It’s a good place to be.”