Gloucester 29 Northampton Saints 24: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Saints saw their four-match winning streak come to an end at Kingsholm (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Saints saw their four-match winning streak come to an end at Kingsholm (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

At one stage during the second half of this game at Kingsholm, a Gloucester supporter turned to her friend and muttered 'I can't believe these are top of the league'.

She was, of course, referring to Saints, who had started Saturday sitting pretty at the Aviva Premiership summit.

Ahsee Tuala impressed for Saints

Ahsee Tuala impressed for Saints

And in context, her comment was fair.

Because if you were watching Saints for the first time this season, you would have struggled to see why they had been on top of the pile.

They simply didn't have the same presence and intensity that they possessed in victories against Leicester, Bath, London Irish and, to some degree, Harlequins.

There was less of the ferocity that put the fear into those teams and stopped them from scoring points.

Saints managed to turn on the power to help Mike Haywood over the line

Saints managed to turn on the power to help Mike Haywood over the line

And Gloucester were able to capitalise.

They were accused of being profligate against Sale Sharks on the previous weekend as they were eviscerated 57-10 at the AJ Bell Stadium.

But they found their bite again at Kingsholm, where they can still boast a 100 per cent record this season.

That said though, as the Gloucester supporter, who was mentioned earlier in this piece, continually pointed out, there were plenty of flaws to the home team's game.

Courtney Lawes was introduced from the bench

Courtney Lawes was introduced from the bench

They were often ponderous at the breakdown, with scrum-half Willi Heinz lacking beans as he continually slowed the game down with his sluggish decision-making.

And his half-back partner, Owen Williams, wasn't much better, especially from the tee, as he prompted plenty of groans with a string of missed kicks.

But Gloucester still had enough to beat Saints.

And that owed much to the fact that Jim Mallinder's men barely played at 50 per cent of their ability on a frustrating afternoon.

Gloucester celebrated a third win in as many home matches this season

Gloucester celebrated a third win in as many home matches this season

There were glimpses of greatness as they scored a couple more eye-catching tries.

But, unusually, they failed to rule the skies, losing a few lineouts and being beaten to several high balls, a couple of which proved costly in the form of tries.

Courtney Lawes is a key man in the set piece and his presence was missed at times as he was given a bit of a breather on the bench.

And you feel Stephen Myler may have made a difference had he started the game, as his classy cameo was too little, too late.

Overall, there was plenty of reason for regret for Saints against a team that looked there for the taking.

But what Mallinder's men can be pleased with is their third-placed standing after six games of this season.

If you'd have offered up four wins from six so far, most of a green, black and gold persuasion would probably have taken it.

Saints are still in good shape as they prepare to venture into Europe in the next two weeks.

And had they had a little more accuracy and a bit more resilience, they could have been going into next Sunday's showdown with Saracens on the back of five successive wins.

But it wasn't to be and now Saints must set about showing their own fans, as well of those of opposition sides, why they belong at the top table this season.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

One of the sharper Saints players on the day, the full-back flew forward to set up a try for Harry Mallinder and he was also involved heavily in Jamie Gibson's effort... 8

GEORGE NORTH

Has started the season in fine form, but was never really able to get into this game as Gloucester shut him down well... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Did some good work for Saints' first try and continually tried to blast holes in the Gloucester defence though didn't have an easy day going the other way... 7

PIERS FRANCIS

A decent debut for the summer signing as he showed glimpses of the creative ability that he possesses... 7

TOM COLLINS

Has begun this season in brilliant fashion, but this wasn't his day as he couldn't make much of an impact in attack and he made an aerial mistake that led to Jason Woodward's score...5

HARRY MALLINDER

A mixed day for the youngster as he got his name on the scoresheet and landed two tough kicks, but he also missed a few... 6

COBUS REINACH

Looked razor-sharp in the early stages, showing his incredible speed in one break, but he did miss a tackle that led to Heinz's try... 7

ALEX WALLER

It was an interesting battle between the forwards and the momentum continued to switch, but this man did well enough throughout... 6

DYLAN HARTLEY

Was back on captaincy duties after returning from a hand injury and he put in a typically strong showing here... 7

KIERAN BROOKES

Still searching for a return to his best form, but he gave his all again and held his own in the scrum... 6

MICHAEL PATERSON

Has enjoyed a good season so far and there wasn't too much to note as he didn't do much wrong... 6

DAVID RIBBANS

Put himself about, making some big tackles and also carrying well at times as he showed once again why he is so highly-rated at Saints... 7

JAMIE GIBSON

Never seems to deserve less than a 7/10 as he continues to enjoy an impressive season, working hard again and scoring a try... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON

Always makes valuable metres with his impressive tenacity, but he always seems to be able to have a bigger effect when playing at No.8... 7

SAM DICKINSON

Impressed in his first game back, against London Irish, and got through plenty of graft here, but Gloucester contained his carrying threat well... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Henry Trinder (Gloucester)