Brown and Buxton burgle a win for Gloucester

Northampton 12 Gloucester 18
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Surely an even greater victory than the third out of three in the Premiership that Gloucester secured here was the defeat of the gremlins nibbling at their own psyche. Winning away from home has often been tough, but a dash of French polish from Olivier Azam and an iron resolve in the face of Northampton's late surge suggested the monkey is not only off the back, but safely tucked up in bed with a bunch of bananas.

Surely an even greater victory than the third out of three in the Premiership that Gloucester secured here was the defeat of the gremlins nibbling at their own psyche. Winning away from home has often been tough, but a dash of French polish from Olivier Azam and an iron resolve in the face of Northampton's late surge suggested the monkey is not only off the back, but safely tucked up in bed with a bunch of bananas.

Last season Gloucester finished one place outside the play-offs, undermined by a record of seven defeats in their 12 fixtures on the road. They have kicked off the new campaign with a trio of narrow successes and a fresh approach to the tight phases which is paying off in more handsome style than the scorelines suggest.

Azam's first trip to the sin- bin this season was in Gloucester's opening win at Leeds a fortnight ago; yesterday he got his first try. Cherry and White supporters would not be in the least bit surprised at this order of events, but they love the overall package offered by the hooker, who has returned for a second stint in England after a year spent with Montferrand.

Peter Buxton, previously known only as a flanker or No 8, again started in the second row. Buxton admitted during the week he was still thinking like a back rower, but he looks like a quick learner. A Northampton line-out throw, after Henry Paul had given Gloucester the lead with a third-minute penalty, was easily intercepted by Buxton at the front. It was an ominous moment for Northampton's England hooker Steve Thompson. With the athletic Alex Brown and James Forrester making themselves a nuisance alongside Buxton, Gloucester's options were many and varied.

There was early evidence of Gloucester's lack of confidence on foreign soil when their fly-half Duncan McRae chose to drop at goal when he had a full three-quarter line to his left and only three tight forwards facing them. The kick scudded harmlessly off target and Northampton levelled matters with a penalty after 19 minutes by Shane Drahm, who had replaced the injured Paul Grayson.

But all the significant territorial gains were being made by Gloucester, whereas Northampton were repeatedly stopped on the gainline, even when their big pack were setting up a rolling maul.

A superbly tidy finish to a line-out take by Brown brought the first try in the 23rd minute. Gloucester attacked left to right, with a couple of looped passes finding Marcel Garvey, then crabbed in the opposite direction until Paul sent the prop Terry Sigley bursting through with a neat sidestep before a scoring offload to Azam. The conversion by Paul made it 10-3, and the margin widened when McRae, though again ignoring a possible overlap, dispatched a drop goal.

Drahm collected a penalty either side of the interval and Gloucester were on occasions guilty of kicking straight to Northampton's most potent attacking threat, Bruce Reihana. Nevertheless, Saints could manage only another Drahm penalty, which also cost Forrester 10 minutes in the sin-bin, and two marvellous pieces of line-out burglary by Brown and Forrester swung the pendulum Gloucester's way.

The final bell rang when, with Northampton's corners unprotected, McRae punted right and Garvey outpaced Ben Cohen and Thompson to slide in for a try confirmed by the video official.

Many of the home crowd left without waiting for the restart, though their captain, Corne Krige, never stopped trying. Saints will equally need some re-convincing of their title chances.

Northampton: B Reihana; J Rudd, M Tucker, M Stcherbina, B Cohen; P Grayson (S Drahm, 12), J Howard; T Smith, S Thompson, R Kempson, S Boome, D Browne (M Lord, 58), A Blowers (D Fox, 58), G Seely, C Krige (capt). Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, T Fanolua, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall; N Wood, O Azam (C Fortey, 53), T Sigley, P Buxton, A Brown, J Boer (capt), J Forrester, A Hazell (A Balding, 53).

Referee: S Lander (Merseyside)

Comments