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Saints secure the points in hard-earned Kingsholm win

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Silencing the Shed is a prerequisite for any team visiting Kingsholm, and Saints did exactly that in a first half which showed the visitors' imagination and power to the full.


Although it took nearly 20 minutes to get the first try Saints had been taking the play to Gloucester for the majority of the half. The forwards were dominating in the maul and scrum and the backs were looking sharp, not least Vasily Artemyev.


The Russian may have been a bit too eager with his first attack, coming off his wing a fraction early to get pulled back for offside, but several times in the half he made good breaks and capitalised on Gloucester mistakes.


But Artemyev was far from alone in his sharpness. Samu Manoa, too, was asking questions of the home defence, his power and handling skills crucial in the build-up to both of Saints' first half tries.


When the American went through two defenders and popped a pass to Soane Tonga'uiha in the home 22 Saints had the break they needed, and when the defenders decreased in number Brian Mujati and Dylan Hartley combined to give George Pisi the opportunity to cut inside and dot down for the opening score.


Having broken the deadlock Saints came within inches of extending the lead with some powerful play from their own 22. A rolling maul made 30 metres, Dom Waldouck made good metres down the left, and when play switched right Manoa showed his power and handling skills once again to keep the attack alive. Pisi popped to Wood, who was dragged down a metre from the line and fumbled while stretching for the try.


It was scintillating stuff, and although Gloucester had the scrum it was Saints who had the bit between their teeth. Set piece power won the ball back, and with Gloucester at sixes and sevens Lee Dickson spotted Hartley wide open on the touchline and the captain shrugged off Charlie Sharples' best efforts to touch down.


Ryan Lamb landed both of the tough conversions and Gloucester were needing points, and quickly. Freddie Burns got them off the mark, before adding a second penalty after his team mates had held out yet another dangerous Saints attack which got within five metres of the whitewash.


But when Artemyev showed his alertness in recovering the kick off from Burns's the pressure built once again. Gloucester conceded a penalty in front of the sticks and Lamb ensured that Saints headed into the break with a reasonable 11-point lead.


For Saints in the first half read Gloucester in the second. The Cherry and Whites came out all guns blazing after the break and gave Kingsholm plenty to cheer about. Burns landed two more penalties, Akapusi Qera made a powerful break down the left and James Simpson-Daniel collected his own chip to force Pisi into making a great tackle.


Saints needed to get a grip back on the contest, and they did so in style 11 minutes into the half. Ken Pisi took a long Burns kick unopposed and quickly made 30 metres upfield, finding his elder brother with a great offload. Manoa was involved again, as was Phil Dowson as the play came left. Once more the defenders had no answer and when the ball went through the hands Tonga'uiha fed George in the right corner.


Lamb maintained his 100 percent record from the tee from the touchline, but this went just before the hour, ironically enough from just left of the uprights. It was just the let-off Gloucester were looking for, and when Burns intercepted a pass to end a subsequent attack it proved to be Saints' last serious visit to the home 22. Fortunately for the visitors, Ken's pace forced Burns to slow down and Ben Foden batted the fly half's pass to the floor to nullify the danger.


From then on all of the attacking play came from Gloucester as they sought the score they needed to get back into the game. But they hadn't reckoned with the Saints' defence, which thwarted the Cherry and Whites time after time.


A desperate George Pisi tackle forced Simpson-Daniel to fumble, and a double-team from Dickson and Foden on home replacement Huia Edmonds stopped a certain try.


The pressure was reaching breaking point, with GJ Van Velze's sinbinning 13 minutes from time prompting the hosts to opt for a series of five-metre scrums. Penalty followed re-set followed penalty, and when Paul Doran Jones also saw yellow it was only a matter of time before the score came.


Referee Dave Pearson eventually had enough and awarded a penalty try. Burns's conversion put Gloucester within a converted score, but the shenanigans on the visitors' line had taken vital minutes off the clock, and despite more back row power from Sione Kalamafoni and a Jonny May run which George ended with yet another timely tackle.


Eventually Saints turned over the ball and used their rolling maul effectively to wind the clock down still further, and when Gloucester got a final opportunity it was too little, too late, and their time was up.


TIMELINE

18mins SAINTS Try G Pisi Con Lamb 0-7

23mins SAINTS Try Hartley Con Lamb 0-14

28mins GLOUCS Pen Burns 3-14

36mins GLOUCS Pen Burns 6-14

39mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 6-17

HALF-TIME GLOUCESTER 6 SAINTS 17

42mins GLOUCS Pen Burns 9-17

49mins GLOUCS Pen Burns 12-17

51mins SAINTS Try G Pisi Con Lamb 12-24

58mins SAINTS Miss pen Lamb

67mins SAINTS Yellow card Van Velze

71mins SAINTS Yellow card Doran Jones

72mins GLOUCS Try Penalty Con Burns 19-24

FULL-TIME GLOUCESTER 19 SAINTS 24