Richard Hibbard’s 75th-minute try fired Gloucester Rugby to a remarkable 31-23 victory over reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Saracens at Kingsholm.
Saracens had not lost back-to-back Aviva Premiership Rugby games since May 2015, while Gloucester had just one win in their last seven league clashes against Saracens.
But it was a nip-and-tuck affair in the first period, Billy Burns’ penalty after six minutes meeting a quick response in Brad Barritt’s well-taken try following sustained Saracens pressure after 12 minutes, with returning England prop Mako Vunipola prominent.
Saracens threatened to pull away with Marcelo Bosch’s huge penalty, but outstanding New Zealander Tom Marshall rocketed over from close range for a converted Gloucester try before Burns kicked two penalties to give David Humphreys’ side the half-time advantage.
Ex-All Black Jeremy Thrush compounded the lead after the break after a Bosch error, but Will Fraser continued his fine injury comeback with a try that levelled things at 23-23 before Gloucester’s late show.
First Billy Twelvetrees kicked a penalty to move The Cherry & Whites ahead, before Hibbard, who had to return to the field of play following an injury to Motu Matu’u, scored from a driving maul as the Kingsholm side became the first to put three league tries past the champions this season.
They did see it out. You only beat Saracens with 100% commitment & that’s what Glos gave. A good night for Wasps as well.
— Nick Mullins (@andNickMullins) February 17, 2017
Saracens had fallen to a shock 24-18 loss away to Worcester Warriors last time out and after Burns had put Gloucester ahead with a penalty on six minutes, McCall’s side began to play like a side inspired.
Mike Ellery made ground down the left side after some soft hands in midfield from Schalk Burger and despite some efficient Gloucester defending, the champions poured forward in numbers.
Vunipola was brilliant going forward before front-row colleague Brits took a short pass to dive over, with Lozowski converting on 12 minutes for a 7-3 lead.
Bosch’s long-range boot moved Saracens further ahead, but Humphreys side remained composed and worked their way back into the visitors’ 22.
Gloucester’s pack made the inroads before Marshall shot over from close range before Burns’ conversion moved the Cherry & Whites level.
The hosts’ linespeed had been impressive for the first half hour, but as they strayed offside on the half hour mark, it cost them three points as Lozowski pumped over the penalty from in front of the sticks.
Youngster Burns made Saracens pay for their indiscretion on 35 minutes with his second penalty of the evening, before repeating the trick again on the stroke of half-time after a dangerous Brad Barritt tackle to give the Cherry & Whites a 16-13 lead at the turn.
‘That’s why he’s one of the best in the world.’
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) February 17, 2017
Gloucester continued to make the most of any Saracens errors and when Bosch’s attempted chip-and-chase fell into Cherry & White hands, the ball was recycled and Thrush galloped under the posts unchallenged for a converted score.
A head injury to Gloucester No. 10 Burns meant a lengthy pause in a period of Saracens pressure, but the champions did not relent and when Paul Doran-Jones was sent to the bin for pulling down a maul, Fraser went over for his first Aviva Premiership try since his return from injury.
With Gloucester up to the full complement, they piled forward into Saracens territory and Billy Twelvetrees kicked a penalty to move them 26-23 ahead with six minutes remaining.
Claiming the kick-off was pivotal, but they did more than that as Ben Morgan broke 40 metres up field and fed David Halaifonua, who cleverly passed the ball off a Saracens player and into touch as the cover defence converged on him and from the resultant maul, Hibbard was driven emphatically over.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 17, 2017