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MATCH REPORT Burrell, Waller score in Saints' cup win over Cherry and Whites

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Although Bath's win over Exeter means that the Saints need a win at Sandy Park to guarantee themselves a place in the knockouts, the men in black, green and gold will be able to take a lot of heart from the way they held Gloucester at arm's length for the majority of the contest.


There were certainly plenty of positives, not least the performances of Alex Waller, Mike Haywood and Tom Mercey in the front row's dominant afternoon, and the return of Christian Day and James Craig to action.


Samu Manoa showed his versatility by slotting in on the blindside, while all the half-backs - Martin Roberts and Ryan Lamb, and their replacements Lee Dickson and Stephen Myler - tried to give Saints' attacking play a brisk tempo.


Nevertheless it was the Cherry and Whites - or Aquamarines on this rare occasion - who set their stall out early, sending a kickable penalty to the corner. They needed tries to stay in touch with the teams at the top of Pool 1, and although the lineout was won cleanly and the ball sent to the backs, Gloucester couldn't break through the Saints' line and when Henry Trinder fumbled in a tackle from opposite number George Pisi the hosts were able to clear.


Gloucester would eventually score the first try five minutes into the second quarter, but for 20 minutes it was all Saints. At the heart of the home effort was Ben Foden, whose broken field running brought a pair of high tackles and a talking to from referee Luke Pearce directed at Gloucester skipper Peter Buxton.


The visitors were not helping themselves with some poor tactical kicking, but all Saints had to show for their efforts was a pair of Lamb penalties. It was not for the want of trying, with Foden putting James Wilson away with a nicely timed pass and forwards and backs combining in trying to drive their team onwards.


But then, after dominating the game so far Saints conceded a try against the run of play. Having set themselves up to chase a Roberts box kick, they instead had to follow up Manoa's impromptu toe poke, and when winger Shane Monahan found himself in space his pace and power set up the first try of the day for Ryan Mills.


The fly half added the extras to put Gloucester in front for the first time, but the lead lasted only eight minutes. Monahan's straight running had fractured Saints' defence, but when the hosts' own big man, Luther Burrell, cut a superb line onto a Lamb pass no one was able to lay a finger on the centre on his way to the try line.


Lamb's conversion restored the six-point lead, which remained until half-time, and while Gloucester started the second half brightly it was Saints who created the best chances.


Two great opportunities went astray in quick succession when George Pisi opted to pass rather than keep the ball in hand after arcing around Mike Tindall. And then when the lineout was nicked against the throw it was unfortunate that the officials missed a Gloucester knock-on in the final pass by the touchline.


So instead it fell to Myler to increase the lead two minutes after coming on, making the most of the straightforward opportunity to open his account. Indeed it was a hundred percent day for the Saints kickers from the tee, something which could not be said for Gloucester when Mills sent a penalty right of the uprights just before the hour.


This would have pulled Gloucester back to a six-point deficit, and it ultimately proved to be their last opportunity of points. Instead Saints killed off the game with Myler's second penalty and a close range Waller try.


A trio of replacements had bolstered the home pack just before a five-metre lineout, and with the referee playing advantage after the maul had been pulled down Waller dived over to cap his Travis Perkins man of the match performance.


The last 10 minutes were a frantic blur of end-to-end action. Tom Collins was pulled back from what would have been a dream debut by a forward pass earlier in the move, Soane Tonga'uiha made a pair of clean breaks up the left wing, and Haywood had a chance to stretch his legs to take play into the visitors' 22.


Nevertheless Gloucester showed their intent to keep chasing a lost cause by launching some desperate attacks from long range, but by then it was too late and Saints had the points.


TIMELINE

9mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 3-0

22mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 6-0

24mins GLOUCS Try Mills Con Mills 6-7

32mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Lamb 13-7

HALF-TIME SAINTS 13 GLOUCESTER 7

55mins SAINTS Pen Myler 16-7

58mins GLOUCS Miss pen Mills

62mins SAINTS Pen Myler 19-7

66mins SAINTS Try A Waller Con Myler 26-7

FULL-TIME SAINTS 26 GLOUCESTER 7