Each previous encounter was in the European Challenge Cup with the English club recording a comfortable 31-11 victory at the Sportsground in the first meeting of the clubs in October 1996. Connacht finished that European campaign fourth in their six-team pool of the inaugural European Challenge Cup.
Eleven months later, when the sides next met, the tables were turned as Connacht shocked Northampton with a stunning 43-13 victory in Galway with Warren Gatland at the helm.
Incredibly, three of the six scorers for Connacht currently hold roles at the province. Domestic Rugby Manager Eric Elwood kicked three conversions and four penalties with CEO Willie Ruane and Academy Manager Nigel Carolan both touching down. Former Ireland international Pat Duignan and ex-Ireland A man Shane McEntee were also try-scorers on the day with Mervyn Murphy, now IRFU Technical Analyst, kicking a penalty for good measure.
Connacht followed up that victory with a 20-15 win at Franklin’s Gardens in the first meeting of the clubs at the famous English venue weeks later. It was a landmark victory for the province as they toppled the highly fancied English club to top the four-team pool.
Connacht celebrate scoring against Northampton.
Connacht took the lead through John Maher after one of the side’s trademark moves off a 13-man line-out.
Out-half Elwood made the sweetest of breaks to create the second try for Junior Charlie, and Ruane put Carolan over for the third try.
That win secured a spot in the last eight but Connacht were undone 40-27 by Agen in France after a cracking quarter-final.
The most recent clash between the sides was again played in Northampton, back in April 2009, at the quarter-final stage of the Challenge Cup.
Connacht were well in the game and led with half an hour to play but indiscipline cost the province dearly and four tries in the final 11 minutes clinched a 42-13 victory for hosts Northampton.
In the winner-takes-all fixture between the sides on Saturday (4pm), whoever emerges victorious will progress to the following weekend’s Champions Cup play-off final at home to either Cardiff Blues or Stade Francais (depending on the result of their play-off) for that final Champions Cup spot.