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Dickson: Saints no one-year wonders

Lee Dickson underlined Northampton's desire to reach "final after final" following confirmation of their place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs.

Saints' tense 25-20 victory over title rivals Saracens in Milton Keynes guaranteed a top-four finish, while a win against Premiership bottom club London Welsh when domestic business resumes next month will ensure a home semi-final.

Northampton are bidding to become only the third club in Premiership history, after Leicester and Wasps, to be crowned champions two years on the bounce.

And after suffering back-to-back defeats against European Champions Cup quarter-final conquerors Clermont Auvergne followed by play-off hopefuls Exeter, they rediscovered winning ways as Stephen Myler's 20-point haul saw them home in front of a record 27,411 stadium:mk crowd.

"It was exactly what we needed," said England scrum-half Dickson, following his 200th Saints appearance.

"We'd had a dodgy previous couple of weeks and there had been a bit of soul-searching going on.

"We stayed together, which is the main thing. The brilliant thing about this club is that there are no little groups here and there.

"We are back on track for the season run-in. It was a very tough game against a very good team, and we are over the moon to get the win.

"There are always going to be ups and downs in a long season and roads that lead to dead-ends.

"We went a bit off-song, and we talked all week about getting back to what Saints are good at - the basics, making sure the game-management is right - and the desire was there.

"We want to finish at the top of the Premiership, where we have been for a long time.

"We want a home semi-final and to go on from there. We want to get into final after final, as a brilliant club like this should do."

Questions were raised in some quarters about Saints' durability following the Clermont and Exeter losses, yet their character shone through as they wiped out an early 14-6 deficit against Saracens.

The visitors took charge through two Chris Wyles tries, but Myler kept punishing Saracens' uncharacteristic indiscipline and he also converted Samu Manoa's first-half touchdown to ultimately give Saints a fifth win from the last six Premiership meetings with Saracens.

Dickson added: "We went back to basics after losing to Clermont and Exeter.

"Sometimes we can be predictable and teams work us out, so we were looking to do something out of the ordinary.

"We put a lot of kicking on Stephen, which was well executed, and the chase was good. We played a lot of rugby as well, as we did in last year's final (against Saracens).

"There was hunger, desire and attitude. We were really up for the game, and we want to take that into the next few weeks.

"We had the courage to play when it was on, and we made sure our game-management was right because when Saracens turn you over they get points.

"Stephen put it around the park really well. He is the heart and soul of the club, he is exceptional. He pulls the strings.

"We started the season well, and I hope we have had our hiccup and can look forward to the big games ahead.

"Play-off games are won on small margins. There will be a time in the season when you do not click, but in the last couple of years we have done so at the right time."

With Europe no longer on this season's agenda, both clubs can look forward to a weekend off before the Premiership returns on May 8.

Saints are planning a few days away in Portugal as they build for the season finale, while topping Saracens' agenda will be assessment of injuries to back-row pair Billy Vunipola and Jackson Wray.

England number eight Vunipola went off after suffering a suspected sprained ankle during the first half, while his replacement Wray lasted only a few minutes before being concussed following a clash of heads with team-mate Ernst Joubert.


From Belfast Telegraph