After one of the most disappointing halves of the Saints’ season to date, Gloucester putting 23 unanswered points past the visitors in half-an-hour to build up a 17-point lead, Mallinder’s men pulled off a remarkable comeback, scoring three tries to one after the break to head home with honours shared.
Although Stephen Myler had calmly slotted two early penalties, Gloucester struck through Charlie Sharples and Richard Hibbard, and with Greig Laidlaw on target with both conversions and three penalties the Cherry and Whites looked well on their way to avenging their opening day defeat at Franklin’s Gardens.
Myler kicked a penalty just before half-time, and after the break James Wilson redeemed his first half yellow card by finishing off two excellent moves, the second of which is a likely candidate for the try of the season short-list.
However these sandwiched Gloucester’s third try, prop Dan Murphy crashing over from close range, and while Laidlaw extended his side’s lead to seven points with a handful of minutes to play there was late drama as Samu Manoa was driven over with 90 seconds left on the clock.
Myler’s conversion tied things up, but Mallinder said that there will be plenty to learn from the first 40 minutes.
“Our kicking game was poor, and we tried to play a little bit too much,” he said. “That’s fine when you’re at home and on the front foot, but we were neither of those today, and were getting belted behind the gain line. They forced us into too many errors.
“But it’s always good to score just before half-time, and as soon as we got within seven points we knew it was game on again.”
Whereas the first half had been memorable for all the wrong reasons, the second showcased the Saints’ champion spirit and resolve, not to mention quality, with Mallinder adding: “We showed what a side we are in the second half.
“We talked about getting our balance right, then played some good rugby to score two cracking tries through James Wilson. And to go to our maul at the death and get that score shows that we’ve got threats all over the field.
“At half-time we didn’t feel secure or confident about our league position! We’re doing alright, and in hindsight two points away from Gloucester were good, and we’ve won our last three games during the international period.
“That’s been good for us and now we can look forward to the LV= Cup semi-final next week.”
Mallinder also paid tribute to Myler, who not just kept his nerve with a tricky late conversion but also hit two milestones, 250 first team appearances and 148 Aviva Premiership appearances, the latter a club record.
“Stephen’s kicked a few of those over the years,” Mallinder said. “It was his 250th appearance for the club and he’s now our record appearance maker in the Aviva Premiership. We’re glad he’s on our team!”