Director of rugby Jim Mallinder insisted Northampton Saints are right on track after victory over Harlequins in front of a sold out Twickenham left the reigning champions top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby pile heading into 2015.
This weekend’s Round 11 marked the halfway stage of the regular season and although one of the pace setters for the campaign so far, Saints still needed to produce the goods against Quins after Bath’s victory over Exeter Chiefs earlier on Saturday temporarily knocked them off top.
And while falling behind to George Lowe’s early try, scores from Samu Manoa, George North and Kahn Fotuali’I ensured a 30-25 win.
Mallinder said: “Bath are playing really well but we are only halfway through the season.
“However we are where we want to be as it is important that we finish in the top two.
“We were put under a lot of pressure as Quins played really well.
"They kept their patience and caused us problems when they moved the ball wide but I didn't think we defended particularly well.
"In the second half we got a good grip on the game through our set-piece. We didn't play particularly well but when you are away from home, you don't have to play too much rugby to get the result and it was a massive positive for us to get the win.”
Bath players, meanwhile, earned themselves three days rest from head coach Mike Ford after their 31-14 bonus-point win over Exeter Chiefs.
Leading by seven points at the break through tries from Horacio Agulla and Kyle Eastmond, the hosts then saw Dave Attwood and Anthony Watson cross the line while George Ford kicked 11 points.
Matt Jess and Jack Nowell were the try-scorers for Exeter but it was Bath who came away with the derby spoils.
"The boys are going to have a break now, we are going to let them be off until Wednesday and then we have another big game against Leicester away,” said Ford.
“We are 18 months into the philosophy and environment that we're creating and, although we didn't win anything in 2014, I think we ruffled a few feathers and rattled a few cages.”
The last Aviva Premiership game to be played in 2014 was contested by Gloucester Rugby and London Wasps and it was the latter that came away with plenty to cheer.
The visitors had lost all five of their matches on the road this campaign but recovered from Jonny May’s first-minute try to record a 30-23 win.
Christian Wade, Tom Varndell and Nathan Hughes all powered over in the first half, and while Matt Kvesic also touched down for Gloucester, Andy Goode’s trusty boot helped the visitors over the line to leave head coach Dai Young with plenty to smile about.
"I'm really pleased to get this monkey off our back as you have to win on the road and beat the sides below you in the table if you want to stay in the mix,” he said.
"We found a way to win as we were composed in the last five minutes, which was pleasing as we've thrown away a lot of games at that stage in the past."
Elsewhere over the weekend, there were also victories on Saturday for Saracens and Leicester Tigers over Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks respectively.
Sarries were grateful for a missed conversion by Juan Pablo Socino which denied the Falcons a draw at Kingston following Chris Harris’ second try of the day late on, leaving the final score 25-23 in favour of the visitors.
There was also late drama as Julian Salvi's late converted try gave Leicester Tigers a superb bonus-point comeback win at Sale Sharks.
While on Boxing Day, props Geoff Cross and Tom Court secured London Irish their first Aviva Premiership Rugby home win of the season over basement club London Welsh at the Madejski Stadium.
Gloucester Rugby 23 London Wasps 30
Tries: May, Kvesic
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 3
Tries: Wade, Varndell, Hughes
Conversions: Goode 3
Penalties: Goode 2, Daly
Referee: Dean Richards
Bath Rugby 31 Exeter Chiefs 14
Tries: Agulla, Eastmond, Attwood, Watson
Conversions: Ford 4
Tries: Jess, Nowell
Referee: JP Doyle
Sale Sharks 30 Leicester Tigers 32
Tries: Cusiter, Addison, Hines, Tuitupou
Conversions: Cipriani 2
Penalties: Cipriani 2
Tries: Bai, Tait, Benjamin, Salvi
Conversions: Burns 2, Williams
Penalties: Burns, Williams
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Newcastle Falcons 23 Saracens 25
Tries: Sinoti, Harris 2
Penalties: Socino 2
Tries: De Kock, Tompkins, Ashton
Conversions: Farrell 2
Penalties: Farrell 2
Referee: Luke Pearce
Harlequins 25 Northampton Saints 30
Tries: Lowe, Clifford, Twomey
Conversions: Swiel 2
Penalties: Swiel 2
Tries: Manoa, North, Fotuali’i
Conversions: Myler 3
Penalties: Myler 3
Referee: Wayne Barnes
London Irish 24 London Welsh 9
Tries: Lewington, Cross, Court
Conversions: Homer 3
Penalties: Robinson 3
Referee: Greg Garner