A second-half flurry of three tries in ten minutes saw Northampton Saints secure a 26-31 Gallagher Premiership win away to Gloucester.
In the first league action for Chris Boyd’s side since Boxing Day, tries from Taqele Naiyaravoro, Rory Hutchinson and a Shaun Adendorff double secured a bonus point victory at a cold and windy Kingsholm.
Before that burst of impressive second-half scores, Gloucester had opened up an eight-point lead thanks to the boot of Billy Twelvetrees and a score from Willi Heinz.
Saints spent much of the game’s opening moments inside Gloucester territory, and were rewarded with a sixth-minute penalty. Jordi Reid’s infringement at the breakdown allowed Dan Biggar to open the scoring from in front of the posts.
Gloucester responded with three penalties from Twelvetress – one of which came from a Lewis Ludlow interception inside his own 22. It took a good scramble from Matt Proctor to prevent a length of the field try.
Despite falling behind, Saints never struggled to work the ball into attacking positions. The carrying of Piers Francis proved to be particularly effective – it was his footwork to beat the first man in the 26th minute that led Saints’ first try. Following the break, once the ball was spun wide via excellent hands from Hutchinson and Biggar, Naiyaravoro had an easy stroll over in the corner.
Minutes later, following another half-break from Francis, Dave Ribbans was held-up over the line. An advantage was being played for an offside against Ludlow, allowing Biggar to slot the penalty and make the score 9-11.
The action on the pitch was delayed shortly after by a brutal aerial collision between George Furbank and Santiago Carreras. Both players required treatment after clashing heads while contesting a box kick. Thankfully, they both were able to leave the pitch without the help of a stretcher.
Gloucester retook the lead immediately after play restarted. A tackle from Adendorff prevented a try but was adjusted to have slipped too high after contact, and offered Twelvetrees an easy chance from the tee.
12-11 remained the score at the break, though this nearly changed once Alex Mitchell came close to sending Matt Proctor over in the corner. The covering tackle from Ollie Thorley was enough to send the busy scrum-half’s pass forward after he raced through a gap.
The hosts struck the first blow of the second half thanks to a moment of magic from Thorley. His break from inside the Gloucester half saw him link up with Heinz for a five-pointer under the posts. Twelvetress converted to make it 19-11.
As ever in this forward and back clash, Saints responded brilliantly. The handling skills of Nick Isiekwe and Api Ratuniyarawa kept the ball alive in the face of rapid Gloucester line speed. Once the Fijian sold Mark Atkinson with a dummy, a gap opened up for Hutchison to speed off and score out wide. Biggar converted to bring the deficit back to a single point.
Hutchinson then turned provider as Saints hit the front. His beautiful flat ball to Tommy Freeman took multiple defenders out of the game, nearly leading to a score for Proctor in the corner. Once he was hauled down, the Scot then took advantage of the numbers out wide, launching perfectly-weighted kick to find Adendorff in the corner.
And the bonus point came as Adendorff finished off a break from deep. Freeman started off the move, opening up a gap with a dummy; his run nearly ended with Hutchinson going over in the corner for his second, but he was caught short of the line and with a huge overlap on the opposite flank, Adendorff was well positioned to secure a double of his own.
A scrum penalty inside the 22 allowed Biggar to stretch the lead out to 12 heading into the last 15 minutes and though Matias Alemanno’s score off the back of the maul was a late consolation for the hosts, the final score remained in Saints' favour at 26-31.
Attentions now turn to next week’s trip to Wasps where Saints will be looking to secure a third consecutive league win.