Gloucester 20 Northampton Saints 28: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
In the build-up to the final-day game at Gloucester, George North had given an honest and telling assessment of Saints' season.
The Wales wing felt that, at points during the campaign, his side had played rugby that could compete with the best sides Europe has to offer.
But he also felt that, at other points, they had showcased some stuff that would struggle to get them past a team made up of pub players.
And, true to their topsy-turvy season, the pattern continued at Kingsholm.
Some of the defending during the first half was shocking, with Gloucester scoring twice and the home fans celebrating another two efforts, which were ruled out.
But at the other end of the pitch, Saints sparkled on two occasions, with Harry Mallinder superbly creating an opener for George Pisi before also playing a part in a North score.
And after the break, Jim Mallinder’s men scored again, through North, before adopting a thou shalt not pass attitude to stop Gloucester garnering any more points.
Whatever has been said at half-time during the past two games has clearly done the trick, with Saints bouncing back from 14-0 down to beat Bath 15-14 last week and 20-15 down at Gloucester to win 28-20.
It is testament to the character in this squad that they have refused to concede a single point after the break in the previous two games.
But, like much of the season, it will have left the players and coaches scratching their heads as they seek answers to just why they have been unable to produce that sort of resilience for the full 80 minutes.
Saturday’s win was a frustrating, but eventually satisfying reflection of a stop-start campaign that has been blighted by inconsistency.
Saints, who topped the regular-season Premiership table for the first time in their history last season, clearly have the tools at their disposal to get good wins away from home.
They have won at Glasgow and Scarlets in the Champions Cup as well as slaying Bath, Saracens, Harlequins and Gloucester on their own turf during this term.
But they have lost at Worcester Warriors, London Irish and Newcastle Falcons, which has hampered their chances of finishing in the top four.
Boss Mallinder was in no mood to celebrate the fact his team had finished fifth, with standards far higher than that at Franklin’s Gardens.
But he was at least pleased that Champions Cup rugby, which is the minimum requirement at Northampton, had been secured for next season.
That gives Saints something extra to build towards and ensures they won’t be travelling to European outposts for hollow Challenge Cup matches.
They can look forward to battling with Europe’s best again and proving that they belong among them once more.
As North also said in that pre-match interview - the club has a proud tradition.
And this is a proud bunch of players, desperate to put this season to bed and get back on track next time round.
It is clear that a break from the brutality that has been this season is needed.
But you couldn’t help feeling that things were starting to come together slightly during the second period at Kingsholm.
North was back among the tries, Dylan Hartley was back to fitness and the injury list had reduced in length.
Had Saints been able to call on such strength in games against Saracens and Leicester last month, this weekend may not have signalled the end of their season.
But it did, and there is clearly a mutual determination at the club to ensure the next one doesn’t come to such a premature conclusion.
How they rated...
Struggled a little defensively during the first half, but more than made up for that with two key bursts that made Saints’ first two tries... 8
Looked lively and played a part in teeing up a try for his brother as he ran a good support line and made the final pass well... 7
Etched his name on the scoresheet and had a steady enough game, helping to shut Gloucester out in the second half... 7
Paid the price for some over-eagerness during the first half as he desperately tried to make an impact, but made a couple of good contributions after the break... 6
Had only scored three tries for his club this season before this, but he registered two at Kingsholm, showing superb awareness... 8
Kicked almost everything that came his way and did his best to create for Saints after they were punished for some slack defending early on... 8
Tried to get things going during a really open first half and was unfortunate to take a big hit from the sin-binned Tom Savage... 7
This man never misses a game and shows no real signs of fatigue, completing another big campaign well... 7
A really impressive campaign for the player of the season contender, who produced another strong showing here... 7
Looked hungry to get involved at every turn, trying to get his hands on the ball and carry the fight to Gloucester, but came off with 28 minutes to go... 6
The lofty lock has been having a big impact in recent weeks and he was an influential figure again here... 7
Took a few knocks for the team, but got back up, battled on and showed his desire to help Saints get the win... 7
A fine first season at the club ended in a deserved victory for the flanker, who is a steadying influence... 7
TOM WOOD - CHRON STAR MAN
Has been so crucial to his team during the second part of the season and he drove Saints on here, with his assist for North’s try eye-catching... 8
A force of nature, the No.8 made plenty of metres and tackles again here as he kept Gloucester on their toes... 8
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
PAUL HILL (for Brookes 52)
Was glad to get into the action and did little wrong as he helped Saints stop Gloucester from registering during the second period... 6
VICTOR MATFIELD (for Day 58)
A final Saints appearance and last ever for the South Africa legend, who fittingly didn’t concede a point during his time on the field... 6