Gloucester 28 Northampton 7: Saints collapse when push comes to shove

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The Independent Online

Dean Ryan is not someone who dishes out much praise, but when his Gloucester team had finished with Northampton on Saturday at Kingsholm he was not ashamed to ladle it upon his side and those players who had contributed so fulsomely to an emphatic win.

"It was stupid to say it was a poor game," he said. "I think we did a great job defensively and when he came on Peter Richards proved he is capable of winning games. He produced some of our best running in broken play.

"Peter Buxton and Andy Hazell are very important to us and lead this group of players who have got us here, never mind our injuries. We can make 10 changes to this side and still flourish."

In the first half it was a try apiece as Saints gave as good as they got. Ludovic Mercier opened with the first of his three penalty goals and converted James Forrester's touchdown. Before then, David Quinlan had scored a try, which was converted by Robbie Kydd.

So at half-time the score was 10-7, with everything still to play for, though in the eighth minute Saints had lost their captain, Bruce Reihana, who could be out for several weeks with a serious knee injury. After that Forrester ran through Darren Fox, which Paul Tupai took unkindly to. Tupai, who stamped on Forrester, was sent to the sin bin. There was no score while Tupai was absent. Saints were still in the hunt.

Not for long. Mercier added two more penalties before Gloucester got their line-out working, with Mefin Davies replacing Olivier Azam at hooker, to the extent that they put two penalties to touch in an attempt to then drive over. Neither came off.

But Northampton were showing signs that a demanding afternoon was becoming too much to bear. Their scrum was sagging while Gloucester's was increasing in its intensity, and when the Northampton prop Tom Smith was injured the game switched to uncontested scrums.

The visitors' England hooker, Steve Thompson, who had been a livewire in the first half, was lumbering in the second and could only look on as Hazell grabbed a try which Mercier converted. The end was in sight when the replacement centre Jack Adams scored Gloucester's third.

Gloucester: Tries Forrester, Hazell, Adams; Conversions Mercier 2; Penalties Mercier 3. Northampton: Try Quinlan Conversion Kydd.

Gloucester: D Morgan; J Bailey, R Keil (J Adams, 71), A Allen, M Foster; L Mercier, R Lawson (P Richards, 47); N Wood (J Boer, 70), O Azam (M Davies, 40), C Califano (J Forster, 59), A Eustace, M Bortolami (capt), P Buxton, A Hazell, J Forrester.

Northampton: R Kydd; S Lamont, B Reihana (L Myring, 8), D Quinlan, B Cohen; C Spencer, M Robinson (I Vass, 72); T Smith (C Budgen, 43), S Thompson, P Barnard (D Richmond, 68), M Lord (Damien Browne, 68), C Short, P Tupai, D Fox (S Harding, 61), Daniel Browne (M Easter, 68).

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).