You couldn’t blame Saints fans who felt a bit of nauseous deja vu after Newcastle ran in the third of their opening tries at Franklins Gardens on Saturday.
The Geordies had inflicted two painful defeats on Saints in the previous two meetings – games that should have gone the other way being snatched away with the dour determination their manager Dean Richards used to show on the field.
How many times in recent years have Saints fans sat down looking for their team to set the record straight about something and then seen events turn the other way?
A bit of defensive naivety, a bit of bad luck… it doesn’t take much in the incredibly closely matched arena of Premiership Rugby.
In startlingly short order Newcastle were three tries up and perhaps the fact it happened so early in the game was the best way it could happen – Saints had an hour left and no option but to get stuck in.
But there’s another factor in this Saints team that is emerging – a new experience for a unit that in its recent heyday was known for a ruthlessly simple machine for victory, forward power and defensive strength.
That new factor is youth.
Coach Chris Boyd has made it clear that he will pick players on form no matter what their age and this has opened the door for players who have helped propel the Wanderers to a clutch of trophies.
It is as though the mantra has changed from ‘we’re going to make sure you score less than us’ to ‘we’re going to make sure we score more than you’.
Man of the Match Rory Hutchinson had a new narrative in mind after Saints had gone three tries down. It involved slipping through the Newcastle defence like a ghost and putting full back George Furbank in for a try.
The panache was thrilling but the positivity was inspiring.
It would be nothing short of miraculous if Saints are clutching silverware at the end of Chris Boyd’s first season at the reins but with a cup final at Franklin’s Gardens and anything still possible in other competitions there really is everything to play for.
Photographs by Dave Ikin. See full gallery below.