Woodman chops down Saints

Gloucester 28 Northampton 20
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Trevor Woodman is bracing himself for a rough time when the Gloucester team meet tomorrow. He is getting ready to take a fair bit of stick for behaving like a back and scoring a blistering match-winning try late in the second half.

It was not the scoring of the try so much as the manner in which the returning England World Cup hero did it, leaving not one, not two, but three Saints flailing at fresh air. Props just do not do that.

But this one did. "I wanted to come back and make an impact," said the former teenage centre threequarter. "But to score a try, and one like that on your first game back to win the match, is something else.

"No doubt it will be on the agenda for Tuesday's team meeting and there will be some piss-taking." The cheers from the sell-out 11,000 crowd for Woodman and his England colleagues, Phil Vickery and Andy Gomarsall, when they trotted out, had reverberated across the Severn Vale and resounded around the Cotswold Hills.

The Cherry and White faithful were confident that a wicked little run of four defeats, three of them in the Premiership, was about to come to an end. But Northampton, even minus their World Cup quartet of Ben Cohen, Matt Dawson, Paul Grayson and Steve Thompson, had not travelled to Kingsholm to be marched over, and by the time Woodman and Vickery joined the fray in the 45th minute, Saints were seven points ahead.

The class and technique of the England pair, though, helped splinter the opposition set-piece from that point. Since Northampton's line-out was not so much dysfunctional as non-existent, there was precious little left for them to work with. The Gloucester scrum-half, Gomarsall, who had started the game, looked in excellent form, firing out sizzling passes, hoofing the ball out of trouble and making sniping runs that Dawson would have appreciated.

Gomarsall's opposite number, Mark Robinson, did prove a nuisance early on, and a couple of extremely sharp breaks earned him two first-half tries which Shane Drahm converted. But Gloucester's discipline was such that they presented Saints with very few penalty shots at goal. They also possessed too much gas out wide for the Northampton defence.

Marcel Garvey's fourth-minute try after great work by the excellent Junior Paramore jolted Saints, who then struck back with two of their own and a penalty to take the lead. But they could not cope with the introduction of the England props. It was a bullish Vickery charge at the Saints' line which led to James Simpson-Daniel scoring the try that levelled the scores after the break.

A quarter of an hour later, Gloucester worked the ball right from a ruck outside the Saints' 22, to Woodman, loitering on the right wing. If he set off like a greyhound, there was more of the knackered bulldog to him as he plunged gratefully over the line. Gloucester's England heroes were back, bringing with them a little World Cup magic.

Gloucester: Tries Garvey, Simpson-Daniel, Woodman; Conversions Paul 2; Penalties Paul 3. Northampton: Tries Robinson 2; Conversions Drahm 2; Penalties Drahm 2.

Gloucester: T Delport; M Garvey (J Frape, h-t), R Todd, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall; R Roncero (T Woodman, 45), C Fortey, A Deacon (P Vickery, 45), A Brown, M Cornwell, J Boer (capt), J Paramore, P Buxton (A Hazell, 60).

Northampton: N Beal; J Brooks, J Leslie (co-capt; J Sleightholme, h-t), M Tucker, B Reihana; S Drahm, M Robinson; T Smith, D Richmond (M Miles, 65), R Morris (C Budgen, 59), R Hunter, Jon Phillips (M Soden 74), G Seely, A Blowers (co-capt; M Soden, 68-74), D Fox.

Referee: A Spreadbury (Keynsham).