From a dark September evening at Franklin’s Gardens, where they conceded 50 points, Gloucester unveiled huge competitive spirit on the sunny uplands of Kingsholm.
Had they tumbled the champions, few Northamptonians could have complained, the try by Samu Manoa that earned them equality – the third- highest draw in the 28 years of the Premiership – coming 80 seconds from time.
Yet it says much for Northampton that they picked themselves up from a 23-9 half-time deficit in a whirligig nine minutes after the break, when they scored two tries through James Wilson and Gloucester added a third through Dan Murphy. This is the stuff from which titles are taken and Stephen Myler’s conversion of Manoa’s try, though not the hardest he has ever taken, was a genuine pressure kick.
Northampton are nine points clear of Exeter Chiefs at the head of the table and their management must now wait to see if England plunder their resources again. Not one of Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes or Alex Corbisiero made an out-and-out case for a recall – indeed, the best of the England hopefuls was the under-threat centre, Gloucester’s Billy Twelvetrees, for the industry with which he led his club.
Sadly, it was Twelvetrees whose knock-on denied Gloucester the chance of a fourth try which might have put the result beyond doubt.
With eight minutes remaining, Henry Purdy crossed from a long (and possibly forward) pass from Billy Meakes but was recalled for a Northampton scrum – the area in which Gloucester enjoyed a growing ascendancy the longer the game went on, only to be penalised there in the denouement that led to Manoa’s close-range score.
Gloucester: S McColl (B Burns, 61); C Sharples (H Purdy, 50), B Meakes, B Twelvetrees (capt), J May; J Hook, G Laidlaw; D Murphy (Y Thomas, 57), R Hibbard (D Dawidiuk, 68), J Afoa, T Savage, T Palmer, S Kalamafoni (R Moriarty, 28), M Kvesic, G Evans (E Stooke, 51).
Northampton: J Wilson; K Pisi (A Tuala, 68), G Pisi, T Stephenson, J Elliott; S Myler, K Fotuali’i (L Dickson, 54); A Corbisiero (A Waller, 61), M Haywood, S Ma’afu (G Denman, 50), C Lawes, C Day (S Dickinson, 50), T Wood (capt), C Clark (P Dowson, 65), S Manoa.
Referee: G Garner (Warwickshire).Reuse content