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SAINTS 15 GLOUCESTER 3 Forwards stay on the march

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Another dominant performance from the Saints pack saw the team continue the European Rugby Champions Cup momentum as the domestic Aviva Premiership campaign resumed.

The wind and rain that battered Franklin’s Gardens in the hour before kick off and the first 50 minutes of the game meant that, despite admirable ambition shown by both teams, scintillating backs play and flowing end-to-end moves were never going to be the order of the day.

Instead it fell to the forwards to decide who would come out on top, and in this regard all 13 who were involved in black, green and gold were outstanding.

Victor Matfield may have come on for his debut, but it was a front row forward still relatively early in his career who took home the champagne, Mikey Haywood being rewarded for a 100 percent lineout and great work in the scrum.

Nevertheless the choice was harsh on the remaining forwards, not least Kieran Brookes, who saw off Paddy McAllister’s challenge in the opening quarter so much that the Gloucester loosehead was replaced by Yann Thomas.

For the second week in a row the scrum became a penalty machine for the Saints, and with Stephen Myler on top form with the boot - missing just the sixth and final attempt at goal - they were able to ease clear of the Cherry and Whites.

That is not to say that there were no try scoring chances, and a near-15,000 crowd and players alike will go home somewhat frustrated that three decent opportunities went begging.

A rare mistake from Myler saw a penalty go the wrong side of the corner flag towards the end of the first half, letting Gloucester off the hook. Then early in the second half Myler’s collection of his own chargedown of a low Billy Twelvetrees - who landed Gloucester’s only points in the first half - saw him feed Luther Burrell, only for the ball to hit the deck.

And then a 15-metre driving maul was spoiled just a few metres shy of the posts when possession was lost and spun wide. This in turn created Gloucester’s best opportunity, and when Jonny May sped up the touchline thoughts turned to his smash-and-grab performance of 2010, when his two tries saw his team sneak a win.

This time he had not reckoned for Ben Foden, who not just forced May into a chip with his covering run, but then had the pace to sweep up the loose ball. And in a night where concentration from the back three was going to be at a premium, George North showed great awareness and composure to scoop up a bouncing ball behind his own uprights to get back into the field of play and avoid conceding a five-metre scrum.

Still, given how well the forwards had played, they may very well have done the business at the set piece anyway, and the points remained at home.

SAINTS Foden; Tuala, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Paterson, Day, Gibson, Wood (capt), Dickinson

Reps - Williams, E Waller, Hill, Matfield, Harrison, Dickson, Hanrahan, K Pisi

GLOUCESTER Cook; Sharples, Meakes, Hook, May; Twelvetrees (capt), Heinz; McAllister, Hibbard, Afoa, Savage, Thrush, Moriarty, Kvesic, Morgan

Reps - Dawidiuk, Thomas, Doran Jones, Galarza, Kalamafoni, Laidlaw, Purdy, Rowan

9mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-0
14mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-0
21mins SAINTS Pen Myler 9-0
23mins GLOUCS Pen Twelvetrees 9-3
30mins SAINTS Yellow card Wood
31mins GLOUCS Miss pen Twelvetrees
63mins SAINTS Pen Myler 12-3
66mins SAINTS Pen Myler 15-3
74mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

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