Jonny May did his England prospects no harm with two tries as Gloucester Rugby stunned Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens at Kingsholm.
The flying winger struck twice in the first half against a Saracens side who struggled to get going having already secured a home semi-final spot.
Gloucester’s high energy kicking game caused uncertainty in the Saracens ranks, with the visitors unable to capitalise on Dan Robson’s second half yellow card as the home side tired. Victory kept Gloucester in the hunt for a play-off spot, although they need other results to go their way.
The Cherry & Whites took an early lead when Freddie Burns was successful with his first penalty shot at goal of the afternoon.
With both sides playing for territory the ball was airborn for extended periods in the early stages, but the first try of the afternoon showed the raw pace of May in full flight.
The Swindon-born flyer found space out wide to outpace the cover defence and touch down in the corner, although Burns failed to add the extras as the wind carried his conversion to the right of the posts and it stayed 8-0.
Sarries, who looked shellshocked in the first few minutes, got themselves on the scoreboard through an Owen Farrell penalty after ten minutes.
And they found themselves ahead with a quarter of the game gone when referee JP Doyle gave the Fez Heads an advantage and Gloucester stopped expecting a penalty, allowing Joel Tomkins to run in under the posts unchallenged.
Farrell’s conversion gave Sarries a 10-8 lead against the run of play. And he extended it shortly afterwards when the visitors won a penalty 35 metres out when their powerful pack marched Gloucester back in the scrum.
Leading 13-8, Sarries – who lost Will Fraser early on to injury, the back rower replaced by Jacques Burger – looked to have weathered the early storm only for May to turn the game on his head with his second score of the day.
Gloucester moved the ball through the hands and an inch-perfect grubber kick from Burns took the Sarries defence out of the game allowing May to race through and touch down just inside the dead ball line. Burns nailed the conversion 15 metres in from the left touchline to give Gloucester a lead they never relinquished.
A deliberate knock-on from Sarries under pressure gave Burns an easier shot at goal and he made no mistake three minutes before the break to send the Cherry & Whites in 18-13 up at the break.
After the restart Gloucester’s high intensity kick chase seemed to ease giving Sarries more of a say in the game. The visitors worked a three-on-one overlap out wide but Richard Wigglesworth decided to cut back inside and the chance went begging.
The uncertainty in their ranks was summed up, however, when Farrell threw an interception pass to Burns and full-back Andy Goode allowed the fly-half’s grubber kick to bounce only for Twelvetrees to pick up and drive five metres from the Saracens line.
The chance came to nothing, but despite another Farrell penalty Saracens didn’t look the unstoppable powerhouse of recent weeks.
And Ben Morgan made them pay when the big No.8 received the ball 30 metres out, brushed off three unconvincing Saracens tacklers and ran in to score on his first start for Gloucester since January, Burns making it 25-15 with the conversion on the hour.
Three minutes later Gloucester lost scrum-half Dan Robson to the sin bin and a Mako Vunipola offload set up the impressive Tomkins for his second try of the day.
A fantastic conversion from Farrell set up a crackerjack finish, as Peter Buxton took to the field to cap his career as a Gloucester player but Saracens failed to crack a resolute Cherry & Whites defence.
And a last-minute Burns penalty saw Gloucester home, keeping their play-off hopes alive, for a few hours at least.