Northampton sent Gloucester spinning to a second successive GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP defeat after England international Shane Geraghty ran the show at Kingsholm.
The Saints fly-half eased his team through the gears as Northampton recorded only their second GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP away win since February 2007.
Gloucester, who pride themselves on so-called ‘fortress Kingsholm’, suffered another emphatic loss less than a week after conceding 40 points away to London Irish.
Northampton encountered few problems storming the barricades, scoring tries in each half through prop Soane Tonga’uiha and centre Jon Clarke.
Geraghty kept the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties and a conversion, and wing Bruce Reihana also booted two penalties.
But whereas there was a purpose and direction about Northampton, Gloucester were often at sixes and sevens – both in defence and attack. They lacked organisation or leadership, while the home forwards were nothing like the gnarled, uncompromising unit of so many Gloucester packs of yesteryear.
Saints did not have to hit peak form, more a case of doing the basics competently and then keeping their defensive shape when Gloucester dominated territory.
The home side managed a try for flanker Akapusi Qera, and fly-half Nicky Robinson kicked a penalty hat-trick, but head coach Bryan Redpath has plenty of work to do, even at this early stage in the campaign.
Gloucester were forced into a late change when wing James Simpson-Daniel was ruled out through illness, so Tom Voyce deputised, while fit-again Lesley Vainikolo made his first start of the season.
Skipper Mike Tindall returned to the starting line-up following a rib problem, and number eight Gareth Delve also started – barely 48 hours before he faces Rugby Football Union disciplinary chiefs after being cited for striking London Irish forward George Stowers last weekend.
Northampton, meanwhile, moved summer signing Phil Dowson from blindside flanker to number eight, and there was another opportunity in the number 10 shirt for Dowson’s fellow new arrival Geraghty. Saints, rare winners away from home in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP, made a lively start and went ahead inside eight minutes.
Neat inter-play between the tight forwards resulted in Tonga’uiha being freed by his fellow prop Santiago Bonorino, and he powered over for a try that Geraghty converted.
A 50-metre Reihana penalty extended Northampton’s lead as Gloucester showed chronic signs of a hangover from their Madejski Stadium mauling six days ago.
They stirred though, through Robinson’s penalty and a try that owed everything to juggernaut Vainikolo’s trademark power.
He charged through a retreating Saints midfield, and the supporting Robinson had a simple task of sending Qera in at the corner.
With both sides regularly conceding penalties, the final 15 minutes of a lively first half were dominated by Geraghty and Robinson. Geraghty booted three penalties, while two more from Robinson – the Welshman also missed three kicks – meant Northampton led 19-14 at the halfway point.
Gloucester full-back Olly Morgan, an England candidate to replace the injured Delon Armitage for the autumn Tests, went off at half-time, meaning that wing Tom Voyce made a positional switch.
And Northampton dominated the third quarter, slicing open Gloucester’s defence with sometimes ludicrous ease.
Geraghty was their orchestrator, and it was his slashing break that paved the way for another Saints try, this time scored by Clarke.
Trailing by 10 points, Gloucester needed Robinson to find his radar with the boot, but another missed penalty meant the home side remained well adrift.
And Reihana compounded Gloucester’s woes by striking his second long-range penalty, taking Northampton 27-14 clear and well on their way to an away-day triumph.
Gloucester, invigorated by hooker Oliver Azam’s appearance off the bench, went in search of a consolation try and potential losing bonus point, but a crunching tackle by Saints substitute Chris Mayor on Tindall denied them.
Gloucester continued to batter away, yet it was all to no avail as many home fans in an 11,300 crowd left early, a signal that told Redpath everything he needed to know about his team.