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The 'what might have been' moment firing up Freeman and Northampton

By PA
Northampton's Tommy Freeman (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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

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Saints were gripped by stage fright as they allowed Leinster to build a 20-3 lead in last month’s semi-final in Dublin. Eventually gaining 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 has insisted the experience will be invaluable when they face Bath at a sold-out Twickenham.

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“It got brought up on Monday,” said the England winger. “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.

Fixture
Gallagher Premiership
Northampton
25 - 21
Full-time
Bath
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“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 have won that we have learned from as well, but the two big games at Croke Park and against Harlequins at Twickenham will help us a lot.”

Northampton have taken the Premiership by storm this season, finishing top of the table while playing with freedom and style. Freeman claimed, though, that it is the greater resilience developed under defence coach Lee Radford that has elevated them from outsiders to genuine title contenders.

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“Lee coming in has been a massive help,” Freeman said. “He has given us that fight that means we fighting to the end of every fixture. You saw that at Munster. Even when we have been on top of teams, there has been a history of us taking our 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 are behind.”

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