Wing Paul Diggin scored two tries and fly-half Stephen Myler kicked 16 points as Northampton dealt Gloucester’s GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP play-off hopes a serious blow.
England hooker Dylan Hartley and captain Bruce Reihana also touched down for Northampton.
Myler landed four penalties and two conversions, with his replacement Barry Everitt contributing two late conversions.
Reihana, already announced as man of the match, denied Gloucester the consolation of a losing bonus point when he burst over in the 78th minute.
To rub salt into the visitors’ wounds, the Kiwi then produced a dazzling run to send Diggin in for his second try to claim a bonus point for Northampton.
Gloucester replied with tries from prop Nick Wood, lock Will James and left-wing Mark Foster.
Fly-half Ryan Lamb, handed a starting place ahead of former Northampton favourite Carlos Spencer, who joined Gloucester in February, kicked two penalties but saw two other kicks at goal hit the post before being replaced by Olly Barkley who also landed a penalty.
Myler kicked Northampton ahead with a 35-metre penalty before Lamb’s attempt to equalise was denied when his shot rebounded.
Saints, throwing the ball about with style, threatened when Myler, Reihana and full-back Ben Foden combined in a slick move down the left.
Maintaining the pressure, they switched the attack to the right where scrum-half Lee Dickson and second row Juandre Kruger combined to create an overlap and send Diggin racing over in the 10th minute.
Gloucester hit back after the Northampton defence got themselves in all sorts of trouble which started when they failed to clean up behind a scrum near their own line.
The initial attack was repelled, with Northampton securing the turnover, but Gloucester’s Wood charged down Dickson’s poor attempt at a clearance kick and dropped on the ball for his side’s first try in the 15th minute.
It took the Saints just two minutes to make amends with their second try, putting them 17-5 ahead.
Reihana created it out of virtually nothing, stepping inside full-back Olly Morgan and two other would-be tacklers before finding supporting flanker Neil Best who released Hartley on an unopposed run to the line.
Ten minutes later and Gloucester struck again.
Powerful flanker Akapusi Qera had nearly half the Northampton side hanging on to his shirt as he was hauled down just short of the line but the visitors recycled the ball for the driving James to stretch over and touch down one-handed.
Lamb converted but Myler’s second penalty increased the Saints lead to 20-12 before Gloucester narrowed the gap to one point with their third try.
Counter-attacking after a defensive clearance kick from Dickson, Morgan drew the Northampton defence to send Foster – standing in for the injured Iain Balshaw – crashing through the final tackle from Foden to score in the corner, with Lamb converting from the touchline.
But Myler struck his third penalty on the stroke of half-time to send Northampton in with a 23-19 lead.
After Lamb missed the chance to once again narrow the gap to a single point with a straightforward penalty, Spencer was introduced in the 47th minute in a triple substitution which also produced Barkley and Carlos Nieto from the bench.
Barkley took just two minutes to make his mark, landing a long-range penalty, but Northampton gave old boy Spencer little chance to make his mark.
Gloucester were reduced to 14 men when replacement flanker Andy Hazell was sin-binned after several players were involved in a melee on the Northampton 22.
Myler kicked the resulting penalty and Northampton repelled Gloucester’s only late attack before Reihana inspired the late two-try burst which gave a highly-competitive game a somewhat lopsided scoreline.