Gloucester Rugby director of rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to his side’s strength of character, and James Hook in particular, after the Welsh fly-half kicked his side to a dramatic victory over Saracens.
With time up on the clock Hook slotted over a penalty from the halfway line to cap an eventful Friday night at Kingsholm that saw five tries, four yellow cards and two serious injuries to Ben Morgan and Nick Wood.
An early penalty try put Sarries in the lead and thanks to the kicking of Alex Goode they went in 13-11 up at the break, despite a magnificent solo score from Dan Robson.
After the break Billy Vunipola stretched the visitors lead before Callum Braley responded after a remarkable Gloucester move that started under their own posts.
Mako Vunipola then looked to have won it but Hook, who missed a drop goal attempt moments before, held his nerve from the kicking tee to seal a topsy-turvy encounter.
Defeat would have meant four in a row at Kingsholm in the league for the first time since the 1995/6 season and Humphreys was delighted with the response shown by his side.
“I don’t think I have ever seen anything like that, no game I have ever been involved in has had those last couple of minutes,” he said.
“From one emotion to the other, We thought we had lost and then all of a sudden we are coming back for a penalty and huge credit to James Hook, having had a difficult enough first half off the tee, to stand up and knock that one over was magnificent.
“The one thing people cannot question about this team throughout the season has been their character and determination.
“It was shown last week to hold on in Exeter and again here. I think we were due a bit of luck and we felt in the end it was a good decision to get the penalty.
“We have conceded a number of tries from mauls, it’s been a bit of a feature of our season. It’s something we have worked hard on and will continue to work hard on.”
The game was marred by what looked like a serious lower leg injury to Morgan, a big blow for England with the Six Nations around the corner.
Prop Nick Wood was also stretchered off late on but Humphreys could shed no light on the severity of the injuries after the game.
“At this stage we have not got an idea,” he added.
“Both Ben (Morgan) and Nick Wood are off to get a check-up and we will not have an idea until tomorrow morning about the severity of the injury.”
Meanwhile Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was left to reflect on what might have been after a dramatic encounter.
“It was a game the ebbed and flowed all the way through," he said.
"We showed some poor sides to ourselves and some really good sides to ourselves throughout the game. With the breeze, some poor discipline and some pretty average decision making around the break-down in the first half, we gave them a lot of field position and didn’t really allow ourselves to build pressure.
“I thought we dealt reasonably well with some set-backs in the second half like the yellow cards and the 80 metre try scored out of nothing.
"I thought we did well to bounce back from that. We also defended our line brilliantly in the last 10 or 12 minutes so it’s obviously very disappointing to lose in the manner that we did.”
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Gloucester: Sharples (Burns, 72); Halaifonua, Atkinson, Twelvetrees (capt), May; Hook, Robson (Braley, 56); Wood (Thomas, 66), Dawidiuk (Hibbard, 47), Afoa; Savage, Stooke; Kalamafoni, Kvesic, Morgan (Evans, 48)
Replacements not used: Knight, Hicks, Meakes
Saracens: Ransom; Ashton, Bosch (Itoje, 66), Taylor (Tompkins, 61), Strettle; Goode, Wigglesworth (de Kock, 51); M. Vunipola, George, Du Plessis; Kruis (Streather, 72), Hamilton; Brown (capt) (Brown, 59), Burger, B. Vunipola
Replacements not used: Sharman, Gill, Johnston
Tries: Robson, Braley
Penalties: Hook 4
Tries: penalty, B.Vunipola, M.Vunipola
Penalties: Goode 2
Referee: JP Doyle