Rolling maul dash Gloucester

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Northampton Saints 22-19 Gloucester

A last-minute penalty try saw Northampton beat Gloucester to win their first Premiership match since September and deliver victory in Alan Gaffney’s first match at the club.

Saints, with technical coaching consultant Gaffney now in charge, took the lead through winger Ken Pisi. But Saints were 11 points down before Nic Groom’s score and the late penalty. Gloucester’s own penalty try and scores for James Hanson and John Afoa were only enough for a losing bonus point. The Cherry and Whites led for most of the game but, although suffering a fifth defeat of the season, they remain fourth by a single point. They had a healthy lead with 25 minutes to play after Jake Polledri carried strongly into the 22 and a deft off-load from Owen Williams freed Afoa to score.

Gloucester failed to claim the subsequent restart and it kick-started a Saints comeback as Pisi broke up the right wing before Groom eventually dived over. The score gave Northampton belief and, having rarely threatened in an error-strewn second half, they kicked a late penalty close to the Gloucester line – and set up the maul which won the game. Euphoric relief filled Franklin’s Gardens as the home supporters celebrated just Northampton’s second win in 14 matches in all competitions – and their first in the Premiership since beating Harlequins at home at the end of September.

Northampton technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney said, “The boys dug in very deep and, when you have been on a losing streak for some time, it would have been easy to give in. “Overall, they’re in a pretty positive place even though the results in the last three months have not been what they would have wanted. “I will now be sitting down with eight, 10 or 12 of them to get their thoughts on where things are at.” Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann commented, “Not to be nasty, but we probably lost it more than they won it. “In the last six minutes, we lost a line-out, knocked on questionably and conceded a scrum penalty so we let it slip. “Moving forward, Ross Moriarty has trained with the team and, if he gets the clearance, he will be up for selection from next week.”

Northampton: Tuala; Foden, Horne, Burrell, Pisi; Mallinder, Groom; Ma’afu, Hartley (capt), Ford-Robinson, Ratuniyarawa, Lawes, Wood, Gibson, Harrison.

Replacements: Haywood, Van Wyk, Brookes, Paterson, Nutley, Reinach, Grayson, Stephenson. Sin bin: Ratuniyarawa (15)

Gloucester: Marshall; Woodward, Trinder, Symons, Halaifonua; Williams, Heinz (capt); Hohneck, Hanson, Afoa; Slater, Galarza; Ackermann, Polledri, Morgan.

Replacements: Matu’u, Orr, Balmain, Savage, Ludlow, Vellacott, Twelvetrees, Sharples.