Northampton Saints were beaten late on at Kingsholm, as Gloucester Rugby fought back in the closing stages of the Gallagher Premiership match to win 35-30.
The men in Black, Green and Gold went behind early on but battled hard to lead 20-14 at the interval, with two Dan Biggar penalties separating the sides after converted tries for centres Matt Proctor and Fraser Dingwall.
But despite a magnificent score from Tom Collins after half-time, the Cherry and Whites overturned the deficit after the hour mark with Louis Rees-Zammit and Alex Craig crossing the whitewash either side of a penalty try to hand Gloucester victory.
An early penalty against Saints and grubber-kick from Gloucester pinned Northampton on their own five-metre line, and the hosts opened the scoring in the fourth minute as Harry Elrington pounced upon a lineout thrown long to cross the whitewash just right of the posts – with Adam Hastings converting.
But Saints responded well and won a penalty inside the Gloucester half for a seatbelt tackle on David Ribbans, although Biggar’s kick was just wide of the mark.
Some great hands from the No.10 and Proctor so nearly put Sam Matavesi through in the 13th minute, but Northampton were on the board eight minutes later as Biggar made amends from the tee with a great penalty kick after Gloucester were penalised for not rolling away.
Then, on 27 minutes, the men in Black, Green and Gold grabbed their first try after Api Ratuniyarawa burst through a tackle – Saints hammered away on Gloucester’s line for multiple phases before finally Proctor wriggled through a gap to score.
Biggar’s conversion made it 10-7 and Alex Mitchell created an opportunity straight afterwards with an excellent 50-22 kick, although the subsequent lineout on the five-metre line went astray.
After Ehren Painter won a scrum penalty in front of the posts, Biggar extended Saints’ lead to 13-7 from the tee, and things got even better a few minutes later as – following a big carry from Alex Coles – Dingwall stepped through a defender to score.
There was still time before the break however for a crucial Gloucester try, as they caught their own restart and sent Tom Seabrook through a gap to dot down to the left of the posts.
That kept the hosts in the contest and after a quiet start to the second half, Mitchell created another opportunity with another 50-22 kick – although again Northampton could not capitalise as they were pinged for holding on after the lineout.
Saints’ brightest moment of the match came in the 52nd minute, as they scored a certain try-of-the-season contender; Courtnall Skosan gathered deep inside his own half and launched the move by flinging a pass across to Rory Hutchinson. The fullback exchanged neat passes with Biggar before Collins got his hands on the ball and cut-inside to complete the coast-to-coast move and dot down under the posts.
Biggar’s conversion was good again to take the scoreline to 27-14, but Gloucester answered with a period of possession and territory, only to be denied as some resolute Northampton defence saw the ball held up over the line.
Replacement Louis Rees-Zammit sparked the Cherry and Whites’ comeback however, scoring with his first touch on 62 minutes as he scythed through a gap and used an impressive turn of pace to round the last defender.
An impressive touchline conversion from Hastings brought the game back within a score, and Gloucester were in front four minutes later as a lineout drive rumbled towards the line.
Referee Ian Tempest awarded a penalty try for a cynical infringement and sent Emmanuel Iyogun to the sin-bin, but 14-man Saints edged back in front in the 70th minute as Biggar smacked a long-range penalty through the posts after Craig was penalised at a breakdown.
Northampton went in at the side shortly after though, and after sending the penalty into the corner, Gloucester made another lineout drive count with Craig coming up with the ball.
Hastings’ conversion extended the lead to five points, and despite a dangerous break in the closing stages involving Mitchell and Skosan, Saints could not come up with a late match-winning try – heading back to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens with a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.