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Match Report: Gloucester Rugby 34 – 19 Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints’ final Gallagher Premiership fixture of the year ended in frustration as they fell to defeat against Gloucester at Kingsholm. 

The Cherry and Whites leapfrogged Saints in the table in the process as Phil Dowson’s side slipped to fifth following a match where their discipline issues were laid bare once again. 

When Tommy Freeman ran in a quickfire double to put them 12-7 ahead just after the midway point of the first half, things were looking up for the visitors, but momentum quickly slipped away in the West Country. 

They will now have to wait until the New Year’s Day fixture against Harlequins for the chance to get their domestic campaign back on track, with Heineken Champions Cup matches against La Rochelle and Munster next on the agenda. 

FIRST HALF

Saints began strongly and looked set to score the game’s opening try after six minutes, but a spell of pressure in the shadow of the hosts’ posts ended with Alex Mitchell’s pass being intercepted by Ben Morgan. 

Instead, it was Gloucester who opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Santiago Carreras’ pass was well gathered by Lewis Ludlow, who quickly offloaded inside to give Jack Singleton an easy finish. 

Carreras converted for the Cherry and Whites, but Saints’ response was quick as they turned the game around with two tries in the space of four minutes. 

The first came when Fin Smith spotted a huge overlap out on the left and flung a long pass out for Freeman to go over, with the 20-year-old fly-half’s conversion levelling the score. 

Freeman was a relentless element in Saints’ attack at this stage and had his second after 21 minutes when he moved over to the opposite wing to get on the end of Fraser Dingwall’s pass. 

Smith could not convert this time and the lead did not last long as Carreras weaved his way through down the right before passing inside for Chris Harris to score, with the Argentinian fly-half’s conversion putting Gloucester back in front. 

Following a long delay due to an injury to Singleton, Carreras scored the Cherry and Whites’ third try as the fly-half ran in unopposed after taking Morgan’s offload off the back of a scrum.

Smith had a chance to reduce to deficit to six points at half-time but sent a penalty from 40 metres out wide to leave Saints needing to come from 21-12 down in the second half. 

SECOND HALF

Saints’ chances weren’t helped when Paul Hill lost control of the ball just a few metres from the try line, and this was the only real chance the men in Black, Green and Gold could conjure in the early stages after restart. 

Northampton’s discipline was starting to let them down as well, with captain Lewis Ludlam eventually being sin-binned after his side had conceded a string of penalties. 

Almost immediately Gloucester secured their bonus point, when tighthead prop Fraser Balmain was helped over in a maul by a couple of his team-mates. 

Carreras then twisted the knife further when he kicked a penalty from the tee, although the hosts were made to finish the match with 14 men when Ruan Ackermann saw yellow for a deliberate knock on. 

The visitors made something out of their one-man advantage when a deft pass by Mitchell sent Ramm through to score under the posts, George Furbank quickly adding a drop-kicked conversion. 

With four minutes left, there was still time for Saints to claim a bonus point of their own, but instead their tormentor-in-chief, Carreras, had the final say of a disappointing evening with a late penalty.  

LINE-UPS
Gloucester Rugby: 
Evans, Rees-Zammit, Harris, S Atkinson, May, Carreras, Varney, Rapava-Ruskin, Singleton, Balmain, Clarke, Alemanno, Ackermann, Ludlow, Morgan.
Replacements: Socino, Elrington, Knight, Jordan, Polledri, Chapman, Twelvetrees, Hearle.

Northampton Saints: Furbank, Ramm, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Freeman, F Smith, Mitchell, A Waller, S Matavesi, Hill, Salakaia-Loto, Moon, Coles, Ludlam, Augustus.
Replacements: R Smith, Iyogun, Petch, Ribbans, Scott-Young, James, Collins, Proctor.

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