Gloucester secured their eighth GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory of the season as they went top of the table with a bonus-point victory at Kingsholm over Northampton.
The Cherry and Whites now lead the table by two points from west country rivals Bath.
Northampton have been blowing hot and cold during the league campaign, excelling to secure a 28-28 draw at home to Bath in a brilliant match last weekend yet looking ordinary in losing 14-13 to Bristol.
The Saints had not won since their September 20 home victory over Wasps by 24-20 and had secured only three points – a losing bonus point and that draw – since that triumph.
Gloucester started the better even though they suffered the loss of centre Anthony Allen after just three minutes, although his replacement was not the worst in England international Olly Barkley.
It was Barkley who gave Gloucester the opening try of the match when he popped an excellent pass to fellow centre Mike Tindall who dashed through the Northampton defence, gave it to Lesley Vainikolo on the wing and then inside to full-back Iain Balshaw to cross and make it 8-0 after Ryan Lamb’s earlier penalty.
By 20 minutes, Gloucester were beginning to impose their authority as their wealth of international experience again came to the fore, with Barkley again involved as he sent Alasdair Strokosch to the line before the Scot fed England number eight Luke Narraway.
Lamb converted but, finally, after 24 minutes the Saints got their first score when full-back Stephen Myler booted a 25-metre penalty.
The Saints were also their own worst enemy. The possession they managed to secure and the attacking chances created were either squandered or they gave away penalties and free-kicks.
So it was no surprise when the enterprising home team got their third try when Saints captain Bruce Reihana was unable to stop Barkley from getting over on the stroke of half-time.
The Saints were never negative, though, and a few times put Gloucester under pressure. Eventually that persistence paid off when flanker Scott Gray crept in at the corner.
Myler’s conversion put Northampton back in with a chance of the victory and they had the better of the third quarter.
But Gloucester secured a bonus point when Barkley again provided the inspiration with a kick on the left that Vainikolo chased to score in the corner.
Two Lamb penalties late on sealed the decisive victory.