Trophy-winners Saints hope for Toulon help
Northhampton Saints' players celebrate with the trophy after winning the European Challenge Cup final - by Adrian Dennis
The Saints came from behind to beat Premiership rivals Bath 30-16 on Friday at Cardiff Arms Park, next door to the Millennium Stadium -- the venue for the most heartbreaking of their four recent defeats in major finals.
It was at the Millennium that Northampton led Leinster 22-6 at half-time in the 2011 European Cup final only to suffer a 33-22 defeat by the Irish province following an astonishing second half.
East Midlands side Northampton face Saracens in next weekend's English Premiership final but, before then, the London club play holders Toulon, the wealthy French club captained by England great Jonny Wilkinson, in the European Cup final at the Millennium on Saturday.
"Hopefully, Toulon will get stuck into them (Saracens)," said a grinning Mallinder, who was optimistic about welcoming back England hooker Dylan Hartley, currently out with a shoulder injury, for the Premiership final.
Friday's all-English clash for European rugby's second-tier prize wasn't quite as dramatic as the Leinster-Northampton match of three years ago.
But Northampton had to come from 13-6 down at half-time to defeat Bath, seemingly in charge after wing Anthony Watson's try.
Saints fly-half Stephen Myler, the man of the match, turned the tide with six penalties and a conversion.
Significantly, Bath fly-half George Ford -- ahead of Myler in the England pecking order but behind Saracens' Owen Farrell -- missed three kickable penalties after steering his side around the field superbly in the first half.
Two Northampton tries inside the final 10 minutes, the second created by Myler's interception, from replacement Phil Dowson and England full-back Ben Foden put the result beyond doubt.
"You need a performance like that in big games, just somebody who can keep their head to make really good decisions, not just kicking the goals," Mallinder said of Myler's display.
"Stephen kicked his goals -- you have got to take your points in games like this.
Northampton's second-half rally was all the more impressive as shortly after the break they were down to 14 men when England and British and Irish Lions prop Alex Corbisiero was sent to the sin-bin.
- 'Outstanding forwards' -
"You are not just going to turn up and get given the trophy," said the 29-year-old Myler, capped just once by England against Argentina last year.
"You have got to go out and earn it and the forwards have been outstanding all season for us. They've given us that platform to play from."
Prior to kick-off Bath coach Mike Ford, George's father, confirmed his 21-year-old son would miss England's forthcoming three-Test tour of New Zealand to undergo shoulder surgery ahead of next year's World Cup on home soil.
George Ford had been in line to play instead of Farrell in the first Test against the world champion All Blacks in Auckland on June 7 because the Saracens man would have too little time to recover from the May 31 Premiership final.
As England coach Stuart Lancaster watched from the Arms Park stands, Ford senior saw his son's game go astray after half-time.
"We had to take our opportunities when they were on offer, and we missed a couple," Mike Ford said.
"Myler picked us off," he added as a youthful Bath team, just edged out for a place in the Premiership play-offs, suffered another setback.
"We were good enough to get in the top four (in the Premiership) and we were good enough to win tonight," the former England defence coach added.
"Next season we will come back stronger."