Bath 30 Northampton Saints 24: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
In many ways, Saints' season finale at Bath was a fitting one.
Because the 80 minutes at The Rec on Saturday actually proved to be a microcosm of the black, green and gold's campaign as a whole.
Saints started sluggishly before battling back with some superb rugby before and after the break.
But in the end, there was disappointment as Chris Boyd's side failed to reach their end goal.
It was the perfect, if infuriatingly accurate, summary of a season that has been such a roller coaster ride.
Saints simply haven't been able to find the desired consistency, in matches and in the season overall.
And that is what has cost them a top-four spot this time round, with players and coaches openly admitting in recent weeks that they have failed to meet their own expectations.
That Bristol Exeter, Sale and Harlequins will contest the play-offs owes much to the fact that those sides have found ways to win when their backs have been against the wall.
Saints have done it here and there, but not on the kind of regular basis required.
And the fact they ended the season having won exactly half of their Gallagher Premiership games shows just what a mixed campaign it was.
That is not to say there are not signs of promise, as emphasised by some of the stellar attacking rugby they showcased against Bath.
Taqele Naiyaravoro looked back to his rampaging best on his 50th Premiership appearance for the club, shining in the sunlight.
Rory Hutchinson was back pulling the strings and he rounded off a sensational move in equally superb fashion during the first half.
Tommy Freeman was, well, Tommy Freeman again, and the likes of Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Tom Wood did what they do, scrapping for every blade of grass.
And had a late refereeing decision at a scrum gone their way, Saints would probably have been celebrating a final-day win.
But Ian Tempest refused to upset the 3,000 home fans by giving a penalty when Saints were totally dominant, and Bath then broke away to seal the win in style.
It was an agonising ending that thankfully didn't mean anything in terms of league position.
Saints have been sitting comfortably in fifth for some weeks now, just unable to take that big leap into the top four.
But from where they ended last season - finishing eighth after a shocking losing streak - this has certainly been a big improvement.
Now they must come up with a formula to find the door to the top four next season.
And it will only get harder with Bristol and Sale improving rapidly, Exeter bossing it and Saracens set to come back up like they've never been away.
In a league where each and every point is so hard to gather, Saints can take credit from finishing above the likes of Bath, Gloucester and local rivals Leicester.
But they won't, and shouldn't, be happy until they add teams such as Bristol and Exeter to that list.
How they rated...
Yet another example of this man's immense quality, both in attack and defence. He made a couple of key interventions and also beat his fair share of defenders, too... 8
One clearance kick proved key in getting Saints up the field and he was always looking for work, trying to keep Bath on their toes... 7
Wasn't able to have the kind of influence on the game that he has so often this season but no shortage of effort... 6.5
Scored a magical try during the first half and picked up where he left off against Exeter on the previous weekend... 8
TAQELE NAIYARAVORO - CHRON STAR MAN
Scored two and set one up with a fine assist for Hutchinson. Blotted his copy book with a second-half yellow card, but this was a big performance on his 50th Premiership appearance... 8
Missed touch with one penalty during the first half but didn't do anything else wrong as he produced some tidy passing and a well-taken try... 7.5
Saw one attempted clearance charged down as Bath bagged a crucial try but he showed plenty of spark with ball in hand... 6.5
Came into the team at late notice after Nick Auterac was forced to miss out, and put in another decent shift... 6.5
Drove forward with real desire when he got the chance and got stuck in when he needed to... 6.5
Got a couple of chances here and there to show his skills and made seven tackles without missing one... 7
Came off early in the second half but not before pouring a huge amount of effort into his personal performance... 7
Made a couple of key interventions to win the ball back and didn't do much wrong at all... 7
Found himself on the wrong side of the referee on a couple of occasions but this was another imposing performance that included a clever assist for Naiyaravoro... 7
Just keeps chugging along with huge performance after huge performance. He would not give up on the fight, flying into contact with such desire... 8
Poured so much effort into this, as always, and just keeps showing what a good decision it was from Saints to give him another year... 7.5
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
API RATUNIYARAWA (for Moon 53)
Came into the game at a time when Saints were searching to regain some control, and he tried to carry with force... 6
FRANCOIS VAN WYK (for Waller 55)
Won one key turnover for his team and looked fired up in what was his final appearance for Saints before switching to Leicester Tigers... 6
JAMES FISH (for Haywood 55)
Looked hungry for action and did what he could to get involved in what was a tricky second half for Saints... 6
EHREN PAINTER (for Hill 55)
Wasn't on the field for long as he was shown a yellow card with Saints under pressure, meaning he couldn't make an impact on the game... 4
TOM LITCHFIELD (for Hutchinson 56)
A debut for the young centre and he didn't look out of place despite coming on at a time when Bath were starting to gain some control... 6
CONNOR TUPAI (for Mitchell 56)
Buzzed around the field and was always trying to make things happen when he got the chance, showing his willingness to defend also... 6