Kahn Fotuali'i gets the ball away for Northampton Saints
1 March 2014, 05:21 pm ::
Northampton Saints 39 Gloucester Rugby 13
After an even first half Northampton Saints turned on the style and ran away from Gloucester Rugby to secure a comprehensive 39-13 victory and avenge their defeat at Kingsholm earlier this season.
Jim Mallinder's side notched five tries with first Aviva Premiership scores from Calum Clark and Will Hooley added to a stunner from Tom Stephenson and further efforts from Ken Pisi and Alex Waller.
Gloucester, who were level at 13-13 early in the second half, could only respond through Henry Trinder's score and eight points from Freddie Burns as they eventually crumbled. Forward Will James was sin-binned towards the end as the Saints secured the bonus point in emphatic fashion.
The victory was Northampton's 11th successive league victory and takes them back to the top of the table ahead of Saracens.
The Saints had the scent of revenge in their nostrils from the start and they were to get a helping hand early on, with a knock-on gifting the ball to Pisi, who found himself in acres of space through the middle to race home and score.
Stephen Myler, who was to end the day with 14 points, easily added the extras and the in-form Saints were seven points to the good inside the first four minutes.
But Northampton soon repaid the early favour they received as Trinder intercepted Kahn Fotuali'i's loose pass and ran the length of the field to score.
Burns levelled the scores with just eight minutes go in the half, leaving both sides trying to find their heads in what was shaping up to be a frantic encounter like the one at Kingsholm.
Myler put Northampton back in front with a penalty earned by some good ball carrying from South African No.8 GJ van Velze.
Burns once again restored parity with a penalty as Gloucester continued to hold their own, with their hosts drawing groans from the crowd with a string of errors.
But Northampton did get their noses back in front before the break as a rampaging rolling maul carried them towards the away line and Myler landed the penalty.
Gloucester wasted no time in pulling level after the interval as Burns pushed another penalty through the posts to make it 13-13.
Northampton turned to their bench for inspiration as Lee Dickson and Ben Foden, who had missed the past 13 games, entered the field of play.
The Saints also changed their props, with Waller and Tom Mercey brought into play, smashing the first scrum as Gloucester started to crack.
And Clark was to take advantage, wriggling away from a ruck to dot down, with Myler stretching the lead to seven points with less than 25 minutes to play.
But the moment of the game was still to come as Stephenson stepped his way past some last-ditch challenges to dive over for his second score in as many games. Myler took the score to 27-13 in the home side's favour before Waller crashed over from a lineout drive.
And young replacement back Hooley had the final say as he dived over in the corner to complete a fine second-half performance for his table-topping team.