Gloucester 27 Northampton Saints 16: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Heinrich Brssow provided some good and bad moments for Saints at Kingsholm (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Heinrich Brssow provided some good and bad moments for Saints at Kingsholm (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

it is often said that you can't tell much from pre-season matches, but, in many ways, Saints' showing at Gloucester was similar to what had gone before.

Just as they had in friendly fixtures at Ospreys and Dragons, Saints started slowly.

Just as they had at Ospreys and Dragons, Saints bounced back to breathe new life into their bid to grab the victory.

Just as they had at Ospreys and Dragons, and at home to Glasgow, Saints used a powerful lineout drive to pick up a try.

And just as he had against Ospreys and Dragons, star signing Dan Biggar had a few issues with the boot, both from hand and tee.

But unlike in the games against Ospreys, the Dragons and Glasgow, Saints could not emerge victorious.

Luther Burrell tried to take the fight to Gloucester

Luther Burrell tried to take the fight to Gloucester

Instead, Gloucester demonstrated just how ruthless the Gallagher Premiership will be this season.

The Cherry and Whites spent most of the second half on the back foot, but they took their penalty chances when they came, nothing two three-pointers to take the game, and a losing bonus point, away from Saints.

It felt harsh for the visiting side, who had shown promise at times, but they only had themselves to blame for not taking anything from this contest.

Firstly, they gifted Gloucester an eight-point lead early on.

Cobus Reinach was one of Saints' stand-out players

Cobus Reinach was one of Saints' stand-out players

Then, after getting back in contention at 11-11, they gave away a penalty chance and failed to keep their hosts out with the clock ticking down to half-time.

Yes, they were undone by a moment of magic that would have bamboozled many a team as Danny Cipriani's incredible pass opened the door for Charlie Sharples to score out wide.

But Saints were simply too porous before the break and too profligate after it.

The performance of Heinrich Brüssow was a microcosm of Saints' overall showing as he combined dominance and ability with erratic decisions.

Ehren Painter was denied a late try by the TMO

Ehren Painter was denied a late try by the TMO

The South African flanker, who will clearly be a big player for his team if he stays fit this season, made a couple of high tackles that gave Gloucester some respite.

But he was not the only offender as Saints coughed up 16 penalties in all.

That tally will not allow you to win a game anywhere, never mind at a team tipped to finish in the top four this season.

Saints' name has become ironic as they have been real sinners during the past couple of seasons.

And there is no doubt they must iron out those disciplinary problems if they are to achieve their aims this time round.

But for all the errors and penalties conceded, let it be known that there were also signs of life at Kingsholm.

The way Saints largely controlled the game in the second period was promising, as they refused to relent after going in at half-time with a huge task on their hands.

The attacking play of men such as Ahsee Tuala, who superbly set up a first-half try for Piers Francis, and Cobus Reinach, who can be one of the stars of the season, caught the eye.

And although he fluffed three restarts and a couple of conversions, Biggar's play around the field showed just how good he can be.

The Wales fly-half was said to have his head down in disappointment in the dressing room after the match, but he could at least seek solace from one try-saving tackle on Matt Banahan and some good leadership from inside the No.10 shirt.

At times there were hints of the Ryan Lamb or Shane Geraghty about his display as he combined kicking errors you wouldn't expect with moments of inspiration.

But there is no doubt that Biggar will be a better player for Saints than either of those two as he has undoubted talent that just needs time to fully emerge.

He will be boosted by extra reinforcements in the back line, with Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway and Andy Symons still to make their first appearances for Northampton.

The starting 15 could look very different in a few weeks' time, but that is not to say that all of those who played at Kingsholm won't have a big part to play this season.

Saints just need time to get to grips with what they are learning under the new coaches and time together to eradicate the issues that blighted them at Gloucester.

But in a league where no team will give them anything for free, Saints know they must get up to speed quickly.

And they would dearly love to do that in front of their own fans when Harlequins come calling at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

A shaky start for the Samoan but he bounced back in style, providing a sensational assist for Piers Francis' try... 6

NAFI TUITAVAKE

Made a couple of sledgehammer hits and did his best to work openings in attack but he was shackled well... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

A real mixed display from the centre, who looked so dangerous when given the chance to run at Gloucester but who also had some handling issues... 6

PIERS FRANCIS

Looked strong in the Saints midfield and is certainly making the No.12 shirt his own, giving the coaches a player to build around... 7

TOM COLLINS

Made one of his trademark fleet-footed breaks during the second half but that was the only real chance he had to run and he was tested defensively... 6

DAN BIGGAR

Looked strong defensively, stopping Banahan from scoring, and also gathered the high ball well while pushing his team forward, but his kicking was not to the standard he expects... 5

COBUS REINACH

Saints' main threat, the South African once again showed the talent he possesses, starting the season on the right foot as he looks to flourish as expected... 7

ALEX WALLER

Plenty of passion as always from the prop, but Gloucester were decent up front and they more than matched Saints at times... 6

JAMES FISH

Scored six tries in three pre-season games but wasn't able to continue that hot streak here as he took a knock to the head early on and was eventually withdrawn in the second half... 6

BEN FRANKS

Looked hungry to carry the fight to Gloucester and though he didn't have it all his own way in the scrum, this was a decent display... 6

DAVID RIBBANS

Was unable to make any real impact on the game as he was forced off inside the first 21 minutes of the match... 5

COURTNEY LAWES

Very rarely provides a performance that is worthy of less than a seven and this was no different as he did everything he could to get his team the win... 7

LEWIS LUDLAM

Came into the team after James Haskell was forced to withdraw due to injury and wasn't able to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, but still has real potential... 6

HEINRICH BRÜSSOW

One of the most difficult displays to rate as he was so good at times and at others, he gave away penalties that were avoidable, twice being punished for high tackles... 6

TEIMANA HARRISON

Showed his trademark tenacity as he tried to gain ground for his team and also put in plenty of tackles... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

API RATUNIYARAWA (for Ribbans 21)

Carried with his usual force, trying to blast holes in the Gloucester defence, but they stood tall to repel second-half pressure... 6

DYLAN HARTLEY (for Fish 50)

The co-captain looks fired up for this campaign, making a couple of strong carries and hits as he gets himself up and running after a lengthy lay-off... 6

KEN PISI (for Tuitavake 53)

Saints were enjoying plenty of possession when the Samoan entered the fray but he did not have any real openings to exploit... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Danny Cipriani (Gloucester)