Gloucester sneaked above west country neighbours Bristol to taker top spot in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP thanks to a 21-12 win over Saracens at Kingsholm on Saturday evening.
Two first-half tries from South Africa-born centre Rudi Keil gave Gloucester enough breathing space to see off Sarries.
Gloucester were returning to winning form – following two Heineken Cup defeats – against opponents who had won their last three.
Without England trio Iain Balshaw, Anthony Allen and Peter Richards, Gloucester had wing James Simpson-Daniel back for the first time this season after a broken collarbone.
The visitors included former Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell on the bench.
Gloucester applied the early pressure and were rewarded with a penalty which full-back Willie Walker slotted from 35 metres.
Walker was then short with his second attempt from longer range soon afterwards.
Saracens were pinned back deep in their won half when fly-half Ryan Lamb put Keil clear for the opening try of the game – but Walker sliced his conversion attempt wide.
Midway through the first half, Sarries were reduced to 14 men when Richard Haughton was caught offside and – following previous warnings for the visitors – had to spend 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Fly-half Glen Jackson hit back with a penalty. But Sarries were soon back defending their line – and on the half-hour, the ball was fed out from a scrum for Keil to score under the posts. Walker added the simple conversion.
The visitors, back to full strength, soon had a penalty in front of the posts when Adam Eustace kicked the ball away after the whistle to be yellow-carded – and Jackson slotted his second three-pointer.
Gloucester’s troubles deepened when they also lost Keil to the sin-bin just before the interval thanks to a dangerous tackle on Sarries full-back Dan Scarbrough.
Jackson then kicked a 40-metre penalty to reduce the half-time arrears to 18-9.
Gloucester were back to full strength by the time they were penalised at a ruck on their own 10 metre line, and Jackson reduced the deficit further with another success at the posts.
Just after the hour, Walker missed two 45-metre penalty attempts. But replacement fly-half Ludovic Mercier immediately foundthe target from out wide on the right. Farrell came off the bench in the final 10 minutes