Tommy Freeman: Saints taking lessons from Dublin defeat into Premiership final

Northampton allowed Leinster to establish a 20-3 lead and eventually fell just short, losing 20-17, in their Champions Cup semi-final last month.

Tommy Freeman will be one of Northampton’s danger men against Bath
Tommy Freeman will be one of Northampton’s danger men against Bath (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Northampton have been reflecting on the harsh lessons of their defeat at Croke Park to steel their bid to claim the Gallagher Premiership title on Saturday.

Saints were gripped by stage fright as they allowed Leinster to build a 20-3 lead in last month’s Champions Cup semi-final in Dublin but, having gained their composure in front of an 82,300 crowd, they fell just short with a final-quarter rally, losing 20-17.

It has become a ‘what might have been’ moment for the club, had they shown greater conviction from the start, but Tommy Freeman insists the experience will be invaluable when they face Bath at a sold-out Twickenham.

Northampton fell short with a late comeback against Leinster
Northampton fell short with a late comeback against Leinster (Damien Eagers/PA)

“It got brought up on Monday,” the England wing said. “It was on a big stage and we knew how it felt, so it’s been about connecting those emotions and not wanting to feel that again.

“Croke Park was a tough arena to go to. The frustrating thing from that game was we could have done it if we had put our game on the park a little bit sooner. If we were more physical from the off, we would have come away with something.

“That gives us confidence going into Saturday – we know that when we get our game right, we are hard to stop.

“We’re always learning – there are games that we’ve won that we’ve learned from as well. But the the two big games at Croke Park and against Harlequins at Twickenham will help us a lot.”

Northampton have taken Premiership by storm this season, finishing top of the table while playing with freedom and style.

But Freeman insists it is the greater resilience developed under defence coach Lee Radford that has elevated them from outsiders to genuine title contenders.

“Lee coming in has been a massive help,” Freeman said. “He’s given us that fight that means we fighting to the end of every fixture. You saw that at Munster.

“Even when we’ve been on top of teams, there’s been a history of us taking the foot off the gas a little bit and that’s changed this season. Now we keep our foot on the gas or claw back if we’re behind.”