Aviva Premiership: Northampton Saints look ready to land first title with Sarries win

Northampton Saints will take the momentum from winning their European trophy last week into the Premiership final
Northampton Saints will take the momentum from winning their European trophy last week into the Premiership final

Simon Mail previews the Premiership final and thinks Northampton Saints have the momentum to capture their first title...

"Northampton appear to be peaking at just the right time and have so much momentum following their wins over Leicester and Bath."

Saracens v Northampton Saints
Saturday May 31, 15:00
Live on BT Sport 1

All of the season's hard work comes down to this year's Premiership final on Saturday as Saracens take on rivals Northampton Saints at Twickenham. The teams come in off the back of European finals, but while the Saints were triumphant, Sarries have to put recent disappointment behind them quickly this weekend. 

Saracens must put their Heineken Cup final defeat to the back of their mind as they bid to end the season with silverware. Mark McCall's side found it a step to far in Cardiff as they were beaten 23-6 by holders Toulon. Losing was far from a disgrace though and it is unlikely they will face a team as impressive as the Top 14 finalists.

The domestic form of Sarries has been exceptional all season. The Men in Black set a new record on their way to 19 wins from 23 league matches. This helped Saracens finish nine points clear in first place. In the Premiership semi-final, the hosts fought back from six points behind at half-time to win 31-17 against Harlequins.

Northampton come into this final with real momentum after their Amlin Challenge Cup victory last week. The Saints found themselves trailing Bath 13-6 at the break but produced a superb turnaround to win the match 30-16. Getting their hands on the trophy is certain to have boosted their confidence ahead of a potential double triumph this weekend.

The Saints led the Premiership in the early stages of the season before Saracens' consistency helped overtake them. Jim Mallinder's side had a slight wobble during the spring when they lost four matches in five games. But Northampton ended the campaign strongly and managed to secure a rare 21-20 semi-final win over fierce rivals and defending champions Leicester Tigers. 
Saracens won the most recent meeting between the sides after edging to a 28-24 win at Allianz Park last month but the Saints won the previous four matches in all competitions. This included last year's surprise 27-13 away win in the semi-finals. Although this is the first final between the teams, Northampton have come out on top in six of the eight previous quarter or semi-final showdowns. 

The Saints, who are looking for their first title, were beaten finalists 12 months ago but will have taken a lot of encouragement from aspects of their performance in the 37-17 defeat to Leicester. For Saracens, it marks a return to the final after being crowned champions for the first time three years ago. 

Saracens will have to manage without Mako Vunipola with the England prop sidelined with a knee injury. This is undoubtedly a blow for the Men in Black because he has been an influential figure this season. Steve Borthwick captains Sarries for the final time before retiring. For the Saints, there are two changes with scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i and prop Salesi Ma'afu coming in. There is also a boost with Dylan Hartley named on the bench after being out for nearly two months with a shoulder injury. 

Sarries go into the final as the favourites and this is understandable after finishing top. But of the seven finals between the top two finishers, the number one side have won just twice. This demonstrates just how difficult it is to maintain league form all the way through the knockout format. Northampton appear to be peaking at just the right time and have so much momentum following their wins over Leicester and Bath. The Saints look equipped to clinch their first title and are decent value to triumph. 

The Saints have done it the hard way in recent weeks with their last two victories both seeing them overturn a half-time deficit. With this in mind, it could be worth backing this to continue at a very generous price. If Northampton are to pevail, Wales international wing George North could have a big part to play. North has scored three tries in their last two Premiership matches and looks a decent bet to cross the line at Twickenham.

Recommended Bets

Back Northampton to win at 2.568/5
Back Saracens/Northampton in the Half Time/Full Time market at 8.415/2
Back George North to score a try at 3.55/2

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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