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Match Report: Gloucester Rugby 27-16 Northampton Saints

01 Sep 2018
Match Report: Gloucester Rugby 27-16 Northampton Saints

Summer signing Danny Cipriani inspired his new side to victory as Gloucester Rugby overcame Northampton Saints in a compelling encounter at Kingsholm.

Cipriani didn’t notch a try himself but he pulled the strings from fly-half in a scintillating attacking display and produced an early contender for pass of the season with his pinpoint looping assist for Charlie Sharples’ first-half score.

James Hanson had dotted down to give Gloucester the perfect start and although Piers Francis and Courtney Lawes crossed for the visitors, Billy Twelvetrees out-duelled one of Saints’ marquee summer signings, Dan Biggar, from the tee.

That ensured a positive beginning to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby season for the Cherry and Whites and their re-tooled backline looks good enough to hold its own against any in the league.

Twelvetrees gave Gloucester an early lead from the tee and 3-0 soon became 8-0 as an attacking lineout was comfortably secured and an inexorable driving, rolling maul ended with powerful hooker Hanson falling over the line.

Biggar – the top scorer in PRO14 history with former side Ospreys – got his Gallagher Premiership Rugby tally up and running with an 11th-minute penalty before Twelvetrees immediately cancelled that out when Saints were caught offside.

But the first try of the game went to the visitors and was created by the brilliance of Ahsee Tuala.

The Northampton full-back bulldozed down the left touchline from a standing start, handed off a prospective tackler and produced an offload out of the back of his hand to set Francis up for the simple score.

Biggar missed the conversion but after trading three-pointers with Twelvetrees, the Welsh international demonstrated his defensive value as he tracked across the pitch to make a brilliant covering tackle on Matt Banahan with the try-line beckoning, before Lawes assisted shoving the powerful winger into touch.

But it was Biggar’s opposite number Cipriani who produced the moment of the first half – launching a long, looping 21-metre pass over multiple team-mates’ heads straight into the bread basket of Sharples, who briefly juggled the ball before collecting and sliding over the line.

Twelvetrees’ conversion ensured a 21-11 half-time advantage for the Cherry & Whites and following a cagey start to the second period, the Gloucester centre nailed his fourth penalty just after the hour mark.

Tom Collins was eventually hauled down by Tom Hudson after a scything 67th-minute break but the Gloucester replacement failed to release in the tackle and was sent to the sin-bin.

And Northampton immediately took advantage by kicking the penalty to the corner before an unstoppable driving maul concluded with Lawes dotting down in the corner to reduce the deficit to ten points with ten minutes remaining.

However, Gloucester held firm and Twelvetrees slotted one final penalty in the closing stages to seal an impressive opening-day triumph.