STEP BACK IN SPORTING TIME... 2014: Saints are champions! But Mallinder's men leave it late!!

It had been a long, hard and at times agonising route - but on May 31, 2014, the Saints could finally call themselves the best team in the country.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:21 am
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:23 am
The Saints players celebrate after winning the Premiership title

Seven years on from their painful and embarrassing relegation from the Premiership and the subsequent appointment of Jim Mallinder as director of rugby, the Franklin’s Gardens side triumphed in dramatic style in the Premiership Final at Twickenham.

Today we hit the Chron archive to look back and find out what the main players were saying at the time...

European champions in 2000, Northampton Saints had never managed to claim the prize of being the best club in England... but that all changed on the final day of May, 2014.

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Dylan Hartley and Mikey Heywood with the Premiership trophy

Northampton had traditionally been one of the biggest clubs in English rugby and could boast a proud and rich history, but league tables and titles didn’t come into the psyche of

the sport until the advent of professionalism in the mid-1990s.

With Keith Barwell the driving force, Saints set their sights on being the best, on winning the biggest prize in English rugby, but it had been a a tough and rocky road, with relegation from the top flight in 2007 about as big a setback as there can be.

Ultimately though, that dark day when the drop was confirmed at Franklin’s Gardens proved to be the launching pad for what was to come, and for what was, seven years later, to climax in that glorious and dramatic Premiership Final win over Saracens at a sun-soaked Twickenham.

Saints celebrate

Jim Mallinder, with Dorian West at his side, had taken over following the relegation, and set about rebuilding the team, and regenerating the club.

There were setbacks, an agonising European Cup Final defeat in 2011, and the Premiership Final loss to Leicester Tigers in 2013, with skipper Dylan Hartley sent off in the first half.

But as it turned out, they were all crucial building blocks towards Mallinder creating something special at the Gardens, culminating in that memorable 2014 day at Twickenham.

It wouldn’t be Saints without that glorious day being full of twists, turns and heart-in-mouth moments though, and in the end the title was won with seconds to spare, and by a matter of millimetres as Alex Waller squeezed the ball on to the try-line to bag the last-gasp extra-time score that sealed the narrowest of wins.

George Pisi scores his try

Although there was an agonising wait - that seemed to go on for hours - as the TMO made up his mind if it was a try or not!

‘Fine margins’ has become one of sport’s favourite cliches, but it has perhaps never been proved to be more true than in the 2014 Premiership Final.

But at the end of it all, Saints could at long last call themselves the best team in the country...

Archive stories and interviews from 2014 by Tom Vickers and Jeremy Casey.

Jim Mallinder celebrates with Dylan Hartley and Ben Foden

SARACENS NOT HAPPY WITH TMO...

Sarries brand TMO system a ‘shambles’

Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths branded the use of the Television Match Official in rugby as a ‘shambles’ after his side lost the Aviva Premiership Final against Saints.

Saints claimed their first English league title thanks to Alex Waller’s dramatic last-gasp try in extra-time, edging home 24-20.

But it might have all been very different if Owen Farrell’s try on the hour had been awarded, as Griffiths believes it should.

The try was awarded by referee JP Doyle, but as Saints fans in the stadium booed the replays on the big screens which appeared to show an Alex Goode pass in the build up had gone forwards, TMO Graham Hughes intervened.

Dylan Hartley celebrates as Alex Waller burrows over for the dramatic winning try

Hughes then asked Doyle if he wanted to review the score, at which point Doyle said: “Do I need to review it?” The TMO suggested he did, Doyle agreed to, and as soon as he saw the forward pass on the big screen, reversed his decision.

It was controversial, especially as Luther Burrell had thrown a clear forward pass in the build up to George Pisi’searlier try for Saints that went unpunished.

Doyle did go to the TMO for that score, but only to check if Pisi was offside or not, which he wasn’t, and the forward pass was missed.

“Most teams in the Premiership would say the protocol has become a shambles, it’s almost make it up as you go along,” said Griffiths.

“Some referees use the TMO as a kind of video operator, ‘show me that again please’, others take instruction, others take guidance.

“This sounds like sour grapes but it isn’t, because this would be the case had that final try not been given.

"The TMO process is a shambles. It’s something Premiership Rugby will have to look at, but the protocol needs to be clarify exactly what is meant to happen.

“It’s not clear what the TMO says, who says it, when the referee’s allowed to ask, when the TMO’s allowed to ask, it just looks like a general hotch-potch.”

THE LOCAL HERO'S REACTION...

Courtney Lawes living the dream!

COURTNEY LAWES always dreamed of being part of a Saints squad that brought the big one back to town - and now he is.

The tough-tackling lock put in a gargantuan performance in the 24-20 play-off final success against Saracens on Saturday.

It made amends for a defeat in the Premiership final a year earlier and in the gut-wrenching Heineken Cup showpiece in 2011.

And it was the realisation of a fantasy for Lawes, who came through the Saints Academy system.

“People will always doubt you, but we have only really lost two major finals,” said the England star, who played in both of those games.

“We are a young team, we are really maturing, and we still have a lot of people coming through.

“A lot of the lads are now, like me, 25, 26 or 27 , and it shows in the games as we are in our prime. Hopefully we can keep that going, and keep improving.”

“You can go your whole career without winning a major final, and it is unbelievable that we have done it.

“It is history, it is a memory, and we just need to enjoy it.”

Saints achieved Premiership glory thanks to a late intervention from Alex Waller, who touched down in the dying seconds of extra-time at Twickenham.

It looked likely that Jim Mallinder’s men would plump for a drop goal as they only needed three points to claim a draw, and win on tries scored.

But Saints continued to go through the phases, with Lawes’ fellow Academy graduate popping up to claim hero status.

And Lawes said: “I was knackered and couldn’t think of anything - apart from making sure we keep the ball!

“A drop goal would have sufficed, but a try makes it better.

“And fair play to Waller for taking it on.”

THE LAST-GASP HERO'S REACTION...

Hero Alex Waller never had any doubt...

EVERY person inside Twickenham was holding their breath as the TMO made his dramatic ruling on whether or not Saints had won the Premiership Final with their last-gasp extra-time try.

But the man who scored it, Alex Waller, was in no doubt that he had got the ball down for a score.

“I always knew I had scored it,” said Waller.

“The worry for me was that I knew it was on the line and not clearly over, and there was a lot of bodies around. Jamie George was one of the boys who jumped down to stop the try and you’re like ‘did he block the camera?’. It only takes a knee to be in the wrong place and then it’s a different story.”

Saints gambled by going for a try as a drop goal would have won it on tries scored, but Waller said: “I could see the line. I burrowed under a few bodies and just thought I’d stretch out. I wasn’t fully aware the clock had gone.

“I thought we still had time for Stevie (Myler) or one of the lads to call it back and maybe go for a drop goal or another attempt, but all’s well that ends well.”

THE CLUB CAPTAIN'S REACTION...

Dylan Hartley happy 12 months on from red card shame

Dylan Hartley feels the current Saints squad fully deserved to become the history boys.

Hartley and Co brought the Premiership trophy back to Franklin’s Gardens for the irst time with a stunning 2420 extra-time victory against Saracens at Twickenham on Saturday.

In a dramatic denouement, Alex Waller burrowed over the line in the final play of the game, with TMO Graham Hughes watching numerous replays of the incident before giving the try.

It sparked delirium in the stands as the Saints supporters celebrated a new dawn for their club.

And Hartley felt it was no more than they merited ater a spirited 100 minutes of action on the hallowed turf. We’ve created history, that’s the amazing thing about it,” said the club captain.

“Last year was the first time we’d made a final and for whatever reason we didn’t make it, but we created history on Saturday and it’s not just the boys that played, it was a squad effort.

"To go 13 games unbeaten earlier in the season, get the most tries scored in the league, least tries conceded, we deserved this.

“Even if it came down to the last play, we deserved it.”

Hartley, who was sent off in the first half of the Premiership final defeat to Leicester a year earlier, had a far more enjoyable day at English rugby HQ on this occasion.

Having not played since the end of March due to a fractured shoulder blade, he came of the bench early in the second half and proceeded to put in a huge shift to drive his team over the line.

“I’d been fit for 10 days or so but I was a little bit nervous,” Hartley said.

“Not playing for a couple of months, the selection was accurate.

“Mikey deserved to start and I was more than happy to come of the bench and do what I did.”

THE DIRECTOR OF RUGBY'S REACTION...

Jim Mallinder says the semi-final win over the Tigers was the catalyst

Saints boss Jim Mallinder feels the stunning Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final win against Leicester was the catalyst for the double success.

The Amlin Challenge Cup and Aviva Premiership titles have both been brought back to Franklin’s Gardens at the end of a stellar season.

And Mallinder, who also guided his team into the final of the LV= Cup this season, feels the dramatic 21-20 success against Tigers on May 16 was key to securing some silverware.

“Our semi-final win against Leicester was important for the belief of the team, knowing we could come back from behind with 14 men and score tries and win the game,” said the director of rugby.

“We took that into the Amlin and now to get the double is an unbelievable feeling.

“Someone said to me after ‘why didn’t we go down to Exeter and win the LV and we’d have got the treble?’, but I think that’s being a bit greedy.”

Saints’ victory against Saracens in the Premiership showpiece came thanks to a last-gasp Alex Waller try in extra-time.

And Mallinder said: “It was a close game, it could have gone either way. We know that and sometimes you just need a little bit of luck on your side. Thankfully we had that on Saturday.”

SO WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?...

FIRST up was a huge title party, with the players heading back to the Gardens to celebrate long into the night, before getting on the open top bus for a parade through Northampton and ending up at a packed Market Square.

Once the summer was out of the way, the focus for Jim Mallinder and his players was to get out there and do it all again.

Saints enjoyed an excellent Premiership campaign, and a third straight Grand Final appearance looked on the cards when they finished top of the league standings for the first time in the club’s history at the end of the regular campaign... but then things went awry.

Saints were surprisingly beaten in the play-off semi-finals at the Gardens, losing to a Saracens side that had only squeezed into fourth place, and their dream of retaining the title was over.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON IN THE WORLD?...

National news... May 31, 2014

Prince William gave England’s World Cup campaign the Royal seal of approval after dropping into the dressing room at Wembley to wish Roy Hodgson and his team good luck.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge, who was guest of honour at England’s 3-0 win against Peru in their send-off friendly, recorded a message on a video and said he is proud to be backing Hodgson’s men in Brazil.

Jonny Wilkinson’s 17-year career ended in glory on Saturday night when he kicked 15 points to help Toulon to an 18-10 victory over Castres in the Top 14 final at the Stade de France.

And the World Cup winner delivered a trademark drop goal as a fitting reminder of his most famous kick which earned England success against Australia in 2003.

Wilkinson landed the drop goal to go alongside three penalty goals in the first half and one after the interval.

The success completes a magnificent final season for the 35-year-old as Toulon, the club he joined from Newcastle in 2009, also won the Heineken Cup last week, against Saracens, in Cardiff.

Northampton news... May 31, 2014

A planning application has been submitted to build a Mexican and an American restaurant on the site of the former Red Hot World Buffet in Sixfields, Northampton.

Northampton Borough Council has received an application from The Restaurant Group PLC – which operates more than 400 restaurants in the UK – to build a Chiquito and a Coast 2 Coast restaurant.

If approved, the plans could create 60 new jobs and would bring back to use a site that has remained derelict since fire destroyed the Red Hot building on December 18.

Chiquito is the UK’s largest TexMex restaurant chain, with more than 70 sites and 100,000 customers each week.

Coast 2 Coast is an American-themed restaurant and bar with its name based on the Lincoln Highway that spans the United States.

AN outdoor film festival will take place in Northampton for first time in July in Becket’s Park.

Films on the Waterfront takes place on Friday July 11 and Saturday July 12.

Movies at the free event will included Mamma Mia, Despicable Me 2, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and one more film that will be announced shortly.

On the Friday night, everyone will be able to singalong to ABBA classics as Mamma Mia will run from 7pm on the Becket’s Park mound. And on Saturday, there will be a whole host of films and activities for children to enjoy, including three animated favourites on the big screen.

Northampton sport... May 31, 2014

Furious Northants chief executive David Smith has told the club’s underachieving players they are facing the County Ground exit.

The County have suffered five successive defeats in the LV= County Championship Division One.

And Smith has made those who are not performing aware they will face the axe unless things improve dramatically.

He said: “The level of performance is just not acceptable. It’s the way we’re losing games that I’m worried about as we’re surrendering.

"The bottom line is there are individuals who don’t match the ambition of the club and they’ll be leaving.”

Cobblers midfielder Ricky Ravenhill believes rookie striker Ivan Toney has the footballing world at his feet.

“The boy has everything, and absolutely everything going for him,” said Ravenhill.

“He is big, he’s strong, he has a good touch, he is good in the air, and he can finish. So I put him right up there.

"For his age, and for the limited first-team matches he has had, to come on in the last few games of the season and do what he has done, I would say he has a great chance in the game.”

Music and movies...

UK top five singles - May 31, 2014

1 - Stay With Me - Sam Smith

2 - Waves - Mr Probz

3 - Dangerous Love - Fuse ODG, Feat. Sean Paul

4 - I Will Never Let You Down - Rita Ora

5 - Extraordinary - Clean Bandit. Feat. Sharna Bass

UK top five albums - May 31, 2014

1 - Ghost Stories - Coldplay

2 - Xscape - Michael Jackson

3 - What Have We Become - Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott

4 - A Perfect Contradiction - Paloma Faith

5 - Caustic Love - Paulo Nutini

UK Box Office number one film

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The fireworks go off to mark Saints' success
Contrasting emotions as the TMO's decision on Alex Waller's try is confirmed
The Saints' title win sparked a massive party... that started on the Twickenham pitch