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Mallinder: Saints hitting form

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder believes his side are running into their best form in time for next Saturday's Aviva Premiership semi-final visit to Harlequins.

Saints clinched the final play-off place with a 42-14 home victory over Worcester and Mallinder said his side are up for the challenge.

"Harlequins will quite rightly be confident about next week because they have been the most consistent team in the league," he said. "But we'll go in there and will quietly give it a go. There's a bit of a momentum. Look three games back and we were struggling a little bit but we went down to Bath and won well there."

After seeing Saints run in five tries, director of rugby Mallinder added: "We need to play well next week because Harlequins are a quality side and they are playing with confidence, but when we play at our best we are a good team."

England winger Ashton produced his trademark swallow dive celebration as he opened the scoring in the fifth minute of his final Franklin's Gardens match before moving to Saracens in the summer, but came off injured 14 minutes later.

Mallinder denied that he had suffered the injury making his flamboyant touchdown.

"We all thought that at the time but I don't think he did it then," he said. "He's got a bit of a bad back and he's been struggling with that. Fingers crossed, he'll be all right for next week."

Worcester rugby director Richard Hill believes that the 37th-minute sin-binning of skipper Shaun Perry turned the match against his side.

"It was a rush blood to the head by Shaun that cost us," said Hill, who had no complaints about the decision after the Warriors skipper put his hands in the ruck in front of his own posts.

Hill said: "We looked good until we had the sin-bin. We came back with our second try and they were rattled, no doubt about that. The last 20 minutes we were chasing shadows."

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