Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath insists his players are not thinking about the Aviva Premiership Rugby play-offs – despite tonight’s 27-15 victory over title rivals Northampton.
Two more points from their remaining fixtures – away to Saracens next Sunday and on home soil against lowly Sale Sharks next month – would guarantee a semi-final place.
"We have not talked about the top four – we are just concentrating game by game," he said. "Northampton are a dangerous team, and if you looked at the strength of their bench tonight, then a 15-point lead could easily have been clawed back.
"But I am delighted for our players. They dug in and defended exceptionally well. We knew how important this game was. Seven points from tonight's game and at Leicester last Saturday, I would have taken that beforehand.
"We respect Northampton massively – you have got to match their physicality – and we are certainly getting to where we need to be. We've got the win, and I am delighted."
Northampton should join Gloucester in Aviva Premiership Rugby's knockout phase, especially with a final game looming against relegation-haunted Leeds Carnegie, but they were second-best at Kingsholm.
First-half tries by Gloucester backs Tim Molenaar and Charlie Sharples set the tone, and there was no way back for the Heineken Cup semi-finalists when hooker Olivier Azam touched down midway through the third quarter. Freddie Burns converted all three tries and added two penalties, while Saints replied with an early Alex Waller score, a Lee Dickson consolation try and five points from Shane Geraghty.
Northampton arrived in the west country one point behind Gloucester, yet rugby director Jim Mallinder fielded just two survivors from last Friday's victory over Newcastle – Bruce Reihana and Calum Clark. Clark captained the Saints, but there was plenty of power in reserve, with England trio Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes all on bench duty.
By the time Mallinder started utilising his replacements though, Gloucester were 19 points clear and on the way towards preserving a 100% Aviva Premiership Rugby home record this term. Saints now head to fifth-placed London Irish on Saturday, when another defeat – even allowing for Leeds' May 7 Franklin's Gardens visit – could rock their play-off beliefs.
And with Saints facing a schedule of three games in eight days, a programme that started at Newcastle, he is only able to field his England players for 160 minutes of that period.
Mallinder said: "It is disappointing you cannot choose your best team to play every single week. We made a good comeback and it was disappointing we did not get a bonus point, but we conceded two sloppy tries.
"Dylan Hartley and Soane Tonga'uiha both went close to tries, and we had some overlaps when we could possibly have done better, but it is still in our hands. We need to go down and beat London Irish on Saturday, it's as simple as that."