A fine double from George Pisi helped Northampton to a 24-19 victory on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership season but the Saints made hard work of it – weathering a later Gloucester storm with just 13 men.
All eyes were on new signing Ken Pisi but it was older brother George who stole with show with two fine tries as Northampton built what proved to be an unassailable lead as Gloucester paid the penalty for squandering chances when well-placed in the visitors’ half.
In a scrappy opening Gloucester began the stronger with some powerful running from debutant No.8 Ben Morgan but Saints delivered a sucker punch in the form of flying centre Pisi on 17 minutes.
Second row Samu Manoa fed prop Soane Tonga’uiha who in turn found his Samoan compatriot Pisi who cut inside to touch down – Ryan Lamb adding the extras at his old stomping ground.
That served to stun Gloucester, who had struggled to find any sort of rhythm – Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees in particular looked notably out of sync at the 10-12 axis – and Saints took full advantage as skipper Dylan Hartley darted over on 22 minutes and the visitors won the ball back after a Gloucester scrum.
Lamb again added the extras before Burns got his side off the mark on 27 minutes but Saints could smell blood and when faced with a kickable penalty on 32 minutes, they opted instead to kick for the corner.
Gloucester stood firm however and swiftly made the visitors pay as Burns doubled his and the Cherry & Whites’ tally just before the break, only for indiscipline to creep in, allowing Lamb to make it 17-6 at half-time.
After the interval, Gloucester came out fighting and immediately forced another penalty of their own – and once more 22-year-old Burns was on target.
And when James Simpson-Daniel embarked on a piercing run soon after, Gloucester could sense a route back into the match, especially when Burns’ metronomic right boot notched a fourth penalty to trim the gap to five.
The Cherry & Whites committed too many men forward however, and Pisi was able to pick his way through for his second try of the match on 50 minutes with Lamb again on target with the conversion.
The imposing Manoa won Saints the chance to extend their lead but Lamb fluffed his lines and was promptly replaced by Stephen Myler on the hour mark.
Gloucester refused to lie down however and after an interception from Burns had taken them to the verge of the Northampton try-line, the Kingsholm faithful found their voice.
Soon after Burns kicked ahead and Australia’s Huia Edmonds looked certain to score, only for some brilliant work from Lee Dickson to deny him.
Gerrit-Jan van Velze saw yellow to boost Gloucester’s chances with the hosts opting for the scrum.
Replacement Paul Doran-Jones was then also sent to the bin, reducing Saints to 13 men and after concerted pressure, Gloucester forced a penalty try and Burns converted to make it 24-19 with nine minutes to go.
But try as they might they could not find a way through and had to be content with a losing bonus point.