Jim Mallinder blamed Northampton Saints’ poor away form for not making Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top four after Saturday’s win over Gloucester Rugby saw them cement their European Champions Cup place for next season.
The lead changed hands several times in a topsy-turvy first half, but Saints eventually ran out 28-20 winners after keeping Gloucester scoreless after the interval.
An early Greig Laidlaw penalty was cancelled out by George Pisi's try, but Gloucester hit back with tries from Lloyd Evans and Ross Moriarty before North's first effort narrowed the deficit just before half-time.
North had his second early in the second half and a Stephen Myler penalty was enough to secure an eight-point win.
Saints finished outside the top four and while Mallinder was not satisfied with a spot in Europe’s elite competition next season, he was pleased to see England captain Dylan Hartley take to the field for the first time since the Six Nations.
"The season, with the Premiership starting late due to the Rugby World Cup, was a disruption,” said the director of rugby.
"It did not help us but if you want to get into the top four, you have got to go away to Worcester, London Irish and Newcastle and you can't be losing by a point or two which is what we did.
“It is a satisfying win but we are not getting carried away because we want to finish in the top four.
"It is the first time in a few years that we have not done that, but we have to regroup. You reset your targets and that was to beat Bath and to beat Gloucester and to qualify in fifth position, so we are pleased that we have managed that.
"Dylan has been frustrated that he has not been able to play. He has been injured and taken his time.
“He has not rushed it and he probably needs a bit more game time to get back up to speed but we are delighted to see him back."
Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys was left ruing a missed opportunity after building a first-half lead, only to see North’s tries win it for the visitors.
The loss means the Cherry & Whites finish the Aviva Premiership Rugby season in eighth place, out of the Champions Cup qualifying spots.
“It summed up our whole season,” said Humphreys. “We started so well but then at a real key moment we turned the ball over in their 22 and conceded a try.
“Those are the small margins in every game that a good team will win.
“For the first 35 minutes, we were playing really well with ambition and accuracy. To build up a 20-point lead, that is time for us to kick on and win the game.
"Credit to Northampton, they came back but two of their tries came off our line-outs which is disappointing.
“It is not the reason we lost the game but it is very disappointing to finish the season like that."
Gloucester Rugby: Gloucester, Marshall (L Evans 18), Thorley, Twelvetrees, Atkinson, Creed, Laidlaw, Heinz (Braley 77), Thomas (Wood 57), Hibbard (Dawidiuk 57), Afoa (Doran-Jones 57), Savage, Thrush, Moriarty (G Evans 61), Kvesic (Ludlow 67), Morgan (Rowan 77)
Northampton Saints: Mallinder, K. Pisi, G. Pisi (Wilson 73), Burrell, North, Myler (Olver 79), Dickson (Fotuali'i 63), Waller (Ma'afu 63), Haywood (Hartley 63), Brookes (Hill 50), Lawes, Day (Matfield 58), Gibson (Nutley 73), Wood, Harrison
Tries: Evans, Moriarty
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 2
Tries: Pisi, North 2
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler 3
Referee: John Paul Doyle
If you want to be at the world's biggest club rugby final, this year's Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 28 May at Twickenham, tickets are available from premiershiprugby.com/final.