Gloucester 19-24 Northampton Saints, Kingsholm
Saints silence the Shed with victory
September 1, 2012
George Pisi goes over for Northampton
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Northampton Saints survived at the death with 13 men and downed Gloucester 24-19 at Kingsholm on Saturday.
The Saints scored three tries to one, with centre George Pisi getting two of them and England hooker Dylan Hartley the other. Fly-half Ryan Lamb landed a penalty and three conversions. A penalty try for Gloucester along with four penalties and a conversion from Freddie Burns just was not enough for the home side.
Former England captain Mike Tindall, who is combining his playing career at Gloucester with learning the coaching ropes, formed a new centre partnership with ex-Leicester midfield man Billy Twelvetrees. The former Tigers youngster was one of five players in the Cherry and Whites 22 making their debuts, with England back-row Ben Morgan at number eight.
Northampton had five players starting a Premiership match for the first time, with Samoan wing Ken Pisi joining his brother George in the backs, centre Dominic Waldouck in the team and South African number eight Gerrit-Jan van Velze starting in the back row.
Anticipation before kick-off was for a close game game as the sides had run each other to the wire twice last season. The opening exchanges were fierce in this latest encounter. But Northampton soon found a key weakness in the home armour on the left wing and exploited it.
The Saints pack went around the blindside to drive close early on but, after a short attack by the Cherry and Whites, Northampton found the tryline as Hartley put Pisi away on the left and the centre cut inside to cross. Again, they almost went in on the left before Hartley took a pass from the base of a ruck to dive in at the corner, with Lamb booting his second conversion.
Gloucester finally got on the board when Burns landed a 30-metre penalty but the Cherry and Whites needed to get a spark from somewhere to get them going. A second Burns penalty shortly before the break reduced the arrears briefly before Lamb kicked his first penalty to restore the 11-point advantage at half-time and give new home coach Nigel Davies a lot to talk through in the dressing room.
Gloucester hit back with two Burns penalties as they clawed their way back into the game but they needed tries but it was Northampton who were scoring them as Pisi went over again on 50 minutes after a move across the backs to the right where prop Soane Tonga'uiha gave him the scoring pass. Burns had the home fans on their feet when he intercepted a loose pass in his own 22 and raced upfield but did not have the support to make the chance count and then a neat chip over the Saints defence gave replacement Huia Edmonds a chance but he could not get the ball grounded over the line.
Gloucester needed two tries and a conversion to draw and had a chance for one of them when van Velze and then prop Paul Doran-Jones were sin-binned. It left the Saints pack seriously depleted as they gave away a penalty try for collapsing a scrum. Northampton's 13 men were under the cosh back in their own half but full-back Jonny May dropped a chance with the line in front of him.
The home side had one final chance to grab the winning try but a knock-on from replacement centre Henry Trinder finished Gloucester's hopes. Nigel Davies was overseeing his first match in charge of the Cherry and Whites and he was left frustrated. Davies said: "I am really disappointed that we worked so hard to get back into that game and we couldn't finish it off.
"I think the pleasure I take from that is that we don't need to panic. If we play our game and play to our structures and play in the right areas, we have the capabilities of beating sides. Northampton are, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best teams in Europe and we were very close to beating them today."
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