Stephen Myler’s boot was the difference at Franklin’s Gardens as Northampton Saints got their Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign back on track with a hard-fought win over Gloucester Rugby.
Myler did not miss a penalty until the last five minutes of the game, and his five efforts were mainly won off the back of an extremely strong Saints scrum.
Gloucester did have their moments, but were always trailing and their only points of the game came via Billy Twelvetrees’ penalty in the first half – which ended 9-3 in Saints’ favour.
Myler extended that lead out of reach as Saints notched their second win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season following a difficult start.
Both sides entered the clash after a fine fortnight in Europe – Saints securing impressive Champions Cup victories over Scarlets and at Glasgow Warriors while Gloucester secured two wins out of two in the Challenge Cup.
The match started at an electric pace but it was Northampton who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, with Ben Foden and Ahsee Tuala both showing defenders a clean set of heels early on.
It was in the scrum though were Northampton found real joy, Kieran Brookes giving Paddy McAllister a torrid time up front and Myler took the penalty on offer to get the hosts off the mark.
Myler then doubled the lead on the quarter-hour, this time John Afoa the man to sin at the breakdown.
Gloucester came back and forced Foden to kick out on the full under the pressure, but Luther Burrell foiled the attack after intercepting and forcing a short-range line-out up the other end.
The subsequent rolling maul did not bring up the try but the scrum served up another penalty after a Gloucester knock on, and Myler slotted his third penalty of the night.
The Cherry and Whites looked to remedy their scrum struggles by bringing Yann Thomas on for McAllister before Twelvtrees – at fly-half – received his first sighter at goal.
Saints came round the side of a maul to present Twelvetrees with the chance, and he promptly smashed a long-range effort through the posts.
Northampton were left to hang on amid a Gloucester squall of pressure but the visitors could not turn the screw – and were architects of their own downfall when Bill Meakes spilled a pass forward from Twelvetrees.
The home side had to see the half out with 14 men though after Tom Wood pulled down a maul – and they did just that despite the Gloucester pack hammering on the door.
The Cherry and Whites were forced to play into the wind after the break and with Wood back on the field, possession changed hands a number of times in the early going as the high ball played havoc.
Myler’s charge down and offload then nearly swung things Northampton’s way, but Burrell spilled after the ball was played fractionally behind him.
Gloucester then went closer, turning the ball over before Jonny May sped away, but Foden somehow caught up to his fellow England flyer and stopped him short of the line.
Just before the hour mark new Saints signing and South Africa legend Victor Matfield was greeted by a Franklin’s Gardens roar after replacing Michael Paterson.
His first carry for Northampton brought a penalty, and Myler’s kicking radar continued to be deadeye as he racked up his fourth penalty.
The difference between the two sides was most evident at the scrum however and Northampton’s fifth penalty from the set-piece yielded another Myler three-pointer moments later.
Gloucester threw the kitchen sink at it in the last ten minutes and were made to rue the width of the post, as Twelvetrees’ chip through bounced off the woodwork and into Saints’ hands.
Myler would go on to miss his first penalty of the night for Northampton but it was not to matter – and Yann Thomas was sent to the sin-bin in the dying embers to compound Gloucester’s woes.