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Match Report: Northampton Saints 23 Gloucester Rugby 20

28 Oct 2016
Match Report: Northampton Saints 23 Gloucester Rugby 20

Tom Kessell came off the bench to earn Northampton Saints a much-needed Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Gloucester Rugby, in a topsy-turvy encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.

The hosts earned themselves a ten-point advantage at the interval, courtesy of Louis Picamoles’ powerful effort and three from the tee from Stephen Myler – the first of which took him past 1500 Aviva Premiership Rugby points.

And while two tries for Gloucester’s Jacob Rowan and Charlie Sharples turned the match on its head, up popped scrum-half Kessell to burrow over the whitewash for what proved to be the decisive score from Picamoles’ offload.

Gloucester started well as Richard Hibbard combined with Mariano Galarza, but as the visitors bore down on Saints line, the ball was lost forwards.

The Cherry & Whites were piling pressure on at the breakdown, and when full-back Ben Foden was caught stranded after a chip through, Matt Scott was straight over the top to win an eighth-minute penalty – although Laidlaw uncharacteristically slid his kick wide across the posts.

Saints threatened on 11 minutes when centre Harry Mallinder found some space which George North exploited to finish brilliantly, but Northampton were then called back for forward pass in the offload.

Saints were again pinged for not releasing on 13 minutes, but the radar was well and truly off for Laidlaw who again failed to make them pay from the tee, this time pushing his effort right.

And the breakthrough finally came after 25 minutes when Ben Foden’s brilliant sniping run allowed Louis Picamoles to take on the ball just five metres out, and the French powerhouse muscled his way through the Cherry & Whites’ defences to score the first try of the game – with the try eventually awarded via the TMO.

Myler made no mistake with the conversion, and that was a significant kick from the fly-half as it took him to 1,500 Aviva Premiership Rugby points.

And the No.10 turned the screw moments later with an arrow-straight 40-metre penalty after John Afoa played it on the floor to make it 10-0 to the Saints.

Laidlaw came good with his third penalty of the night to reduce arrears after Picamoles was pinged on 34 minutes, but Myler restored the ten-point advantage before the break after Alex Waller forced a Gloucester infringement in the scrum.

But some harsh words at half-time from David Humphreys clearly did the trick for Gloucester, who came roaring back five minutes into the second half.

Billy Twelvetrees took advantage of some indecision from the hosts to collect Laidlaw’s box-kick, and the Cherry & Whites spread the ball wide for Rowan to go over in the corner for his first Aviva Premiership Rugby try.

Laidlaw’s touchline conversion bisected the posts, and although another Myler penalty gave Northampton some breathing room on 52 minutes when Tom Savage was offside, the Scottish scrum-half soon cancelled that out when Gloucester won a scrum penalty deep in Saints territory.

England skipper Dylan Hartley was introduced just before the hour mark, but the Cherry & Whites were on the charge and after a brilliant passage of play involving carries from Matt Scott and Ross Moriarty, Twelvetrees put Sharples over in the corner to send his side into the lead for the first time.

Hibbard put in a try-scoring tackle on Harry Mallinder moments later after another thrilling Foden burst, but Northampton were not to be denied.

An excellent lineout play saw replacement Kessell cross the whitewash after Hartley threw long, and Picamoles again was the man to offload at the perfect moment.

James Hook’s penalty attempt from halfway was on target but fell just short on 73 minutes, and Northampton clung on in the dying embers of the match to inflict a first away loss of the season on Gloucester.