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MATCH REPORT May day sinks Saints at soggy Gardens

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

May's similar exploits two years ago had underpinned Gloucester's last success at Franklin's Gardens, and the winger's acceleration and eye for a gap took him over the whitewash in each half to ensure that the Cherry and Whites enacted revenge Saints' opening day win at Kingsholm.


All the more disappointing was the manner in which Saints conceded the tries. The first came with 18 minutes on the clock straight from first phase ball off the top of a lineout on Saints' 10-metre line. May came inside, the defence gave him a metre of gap and the wing needed no more invitation to turn on the afterburners.


Ironically Gloucester had been in that position thanks to a Saints infringement on their own throw just outside the visitors' 22 which had allowed Ryan Mills to defuse a potentially excellent position for the hosts and set up the position from which May scored.


May's second came just 90 seconds after the break. Saints had started the second half brightly enough, looking to claw back some of the 11-point deficit they had taken into half-time. But crossed wires between George Pisi and James Wilson saw the ball hit the deck to be scooped up by May for a 60-metre run-in.


Rob Cook's conversion put Gloucester 24-6 up, but at the time the 18-point margin seemed somewhat harsh on the hosts, even if they had had to be at their very best in the scrum to withstand successive re-sets five metres from their own line at the end of the first half while down to seven men - GJ Van Velze seeing yellow for killing the ball.


Saints had dominated plenty of the first half, edging the early tactical kicking battle and taking the lead with a fourth-minute Stephen Myler penalty. There were also some excellent touches with ball in hand, Wilson putting Jamie Elliott away with a sublime pass down the left wing, and later in the attack the excellent Ben Nutley putting Mike Haywood through the middle with an offload that took out two Gloucester defenders.


Haywood pinned his ears back and went for the line, and who knows what may have happened had he taken advantage of the wet surface to slide in from distance. But in something which typified Saints' day close to the goal line the hooker was held short by Tim Molenaar and Aviva man of the match Sione Kalamafoni, Saints conceded a penalty at the resultant scrum and Mills cleared the lines.


All three of Saints' missed chances were created by the forwards, but while Haywood's opening was created by direct running and accurate off-loading, both of the second half opportunities were strong rolling mauls which somehow did not result in scores.


By now chasing the game, Saints sent the ball repeatedly to the corner. And while the drives looked good, a maul on the right ended when the ball came loose as the player was attempting to get it down, while a similar situation on the other side of the field saw the drive collapse inches from the line and then Mark Sorenson be penalised in the follow-up.


Even when Phil Dowson finally reached over for his team's only try 12 minutes into the second half it was a bittersweet moment. Not only did Myler miss the conversion, but Samu Manoa was yellow carded for reacting to provocation from Gloucester hooker Darren Dawidiuk.


So instead of receiving the ball and building on the momentum Saints instead found themselves a man down and on the back foot as Gloucester re-started the game from halfway with a penalty kicked to the corner.


The Cherry and Whites did not make the most of the player advantage that time, but by then it did not matter as the sting had been taken out from the Saints, and even though full back Rob Cook landed his fifth penalty from five attempts eight minutes from time the game was long gone.


TIMELINE

4mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-0

7mins GLOUCS Pen Cook 3-3

11mins GLOUCS Pen Cook 3-6

14mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

18mins GLOUCS Try May 3-11

26mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-11

31mins GLOUCS Pen Cook 6-14

33mins GLOUCS Pen Cook 6-17

35mins SAINTS Yellow card Van Velze

HALF-TIME SAINTS 6 GLOUCESTER 17

41mins GLOUCS Try May Con Cook 6-24

45mins GLOUCS Yellow card May

52mins SAINTS Try Dowson 11-24

54mins SAINTS Yellow card Manoa

72mins GLOUCS Pen Cook 11-27

FULL-TIME SAINTS 11 GLOUCESTER 27