Gloucester 12 Northampton Saints 13: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Louis Picamoles helped Saints see off Gloucester at Kingsholm (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Louis Picamoles helped Saints see off Gloucester at Kingsholm (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

For a long time, it looked like new year, same old... stuff from Saints.

Appearing to lack penetration, they were struggling to overpower and out-think a stubborn Gloucester side.

And to add to the frustration, the Cherry and Whites were taking advantage of lapses by Jim Mallinder’s men, marching into a 9-0 half-time lead.

With neither side looking like scoring a try, it appeared penalties would win the day.

But Saints improved after the break, working with the conditions and showing more aggression in attack.

They were rewarded with a penalty try and conversion that would win the game.

George North was back in action for Saints after missing the previous three matches

George North was back in action for Saints after missing the previous three matches

And how fitting it was that Stephen Myler secured the victory.

The fly-half’s 300th Northampton appearance was like so many before, as he landed a late kick to pick up priceless Aviva Premiership points.

It was probably the easiest match-winning effort he has ever had.

But it was no less important than others, such as the ones at Wasps and Exeter in the 2013/14 double-winning season.

Mike Haywood put in a big shift on his 150th Saints appearance

Mike Haywood put in a big shift on his 150th Saints appearance

Saints simply had to start 2017 with a win.

They had targeted this game, along with the two that sandwiched it, against Sale Sharks and Bristol.

And now with two wins from two, they can look forward to facing a reinvigorated west country outfit at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Saints have still not lost the first game of the new year since being defeated by Harlequins in 2011.

Teimana Harrison was a driving force for Saints

Teimana Harrison was a driving force for Saints

And they will now hope this Kingsholm success is the start of a better 12 months than the ones they recently experienced.

There is still clearly plenty of work to be done with the current crop of players.

There are improvements needed across the board.

But Saints now have a little momentum.

And with the ability to rest and rotate during Champions Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup weeks to come, they will be fresh for the top-six fight.

They are now just four points behind local rivals Leicester Tigers, having fallen 11 points behind Richard Cockerill’s side with a defeat at Welford Road on December 3.

Harry Mallinder made a big impact after coming off the bench

Harry Mallinder made a big impact after coming off the bench

And there is every chance Saints could go level or above Tigers this weekend, with the team from up the M1 having to travel to in-form Wasps.

It would be a satisfying sight for Saints supporters to see their side above Leicester in the league standings going back into Europe.

Bristol will not be taken lightly, but a victory will be Saints’ minimum requirement.

And if they have to win ugly once again, then so be it.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Always looked secure under the high ball, giving Saints vital stability, and he made a key intervention to stop Ben Morgan scoring... 7

KEN PISI

Had a horrible half as he knocked on a couple of times and was put under real pressure by Gloucester, leading to his withdrawal at the break... 3

LUTHER BURRELL

Helped Foden to hold up Morgan, stopping a certain try, and also carried well in attack as Saints stepped it up in the second period... 7

JJ HANRAHAN

Wasn’t able to provide his usual invention in a game that was largely fought out between the two sets of forwards... 6

GEORGE NORTH

Gloucester tested him with an aerial bombardment early on, but he coped admirably and was able to get on the front foot a bit more in the second half... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Kicked the winning conversion on his 300th Saints appearance, which once again saw him bring a calming presence to proceedings... 7

NIC GROOM

A couple of his kicks were a bit wayward and one or two didn’t get enough distance, but he never shied away from the scrap... 6

ALEX WALLER

Gave away one early penalty but bounced back well enough as the Saints pack battled bravely in torrid conditions... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

The hooker put in yet another huge shift and was a contender for the man of the match award as he was tireless throughout... 7

KIERAN BROOKES

Enjoyed the early stages of the game, cranking up the heat on Gloucester’s Josh Hohneck and carrying well... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Made a couple of big carries as Saints tried to step it up in terms of physicality and he was also a key figure in the lineout... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Marshalled Saints’ maul situations well and his knowledge of the game is so vital to this side... 7

TOM WOOD

The skipper was part of another big back row display, putting himself about and ensuring Gloucester couldn’t get through the Saints defence... 7

TEIMANA HARRISON

Was really dynamic after the break, making one surge into enemy territory that brought back memories of last season... 7

LOUIS PICAMOLES - CHRON STAR MAN

With Saints struggling to make metres during the first half, this man took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second period, pushing Gloucester back... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

HARRY MALLINDER (for Pisi 40)

Really added to proceedings as he looked for openings and ran at the Gloucester defence in a bid to open the home side up... 7

Ethan Waller and Tom Wood showed their delight after the final whistle

Ethan Waller and Tom Wood showed their delight after the final whistle