Northampton off to winning start against depleted Gloucester

Northampton got their Premiership season off to a winning start over an injury-ravaged Gloucester in a lively game at Franklin’s Gardens.

Depleted Gloucester contributed fully to the entertainment but two yellow cards and a high penalty count against them proved costly.

Saints took advantage to score four tries from George Furbank, Nick Auterac, Tom Wood and James Grayson, with the latter adding two penalties and three conversions.

Ollie Thorley, Jordy Reid and Jonny May scored Gloucester’s tries, with Lloyd Evans kicking a penalty and a conversion.

There was a frenetic start with both sides threatening the try-line in the first five minutes. First a kick-and-chase from Rory Hutchinson had Gloucester scrambling before the visitors replied with defence-breaking runs from Kyle Moyle and Thorley.

However, it was a penalty that brought the first points with Grayson knocking over an easy kick before Saints increased their lead when a sweetly-timed pass from Alex Mitchell sent Furbank into the clear and over the line.

Gloucester looked to have responded with their first try when a pre-planned move saw Jack Clement cross but TMO replays showed that Lewis Ludlow’s pass from his line-out take was clearly forward.

Gloucester lost four line-outs in the first 25 minutes and conceded a number of penalties, so it came as no surprise when this proved costly.

Hooker Jack Singleton was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, but it was the hosts’ turn to have a line-out malfunction which allowed Gloucester to break out and score their first try when swift passing gave Moyle the opportunity to send Thorley in.

That was the only score in Singleton’s absence and on his return, his side could have scored a second when Clement intercepted to run 40 metres before Grayson raced back to drag him down 15 metres from the try-line.

Gloucester’s penalty count was ever mounting and a minute from half-time, Clement was yellow-carded for dragging down a line-out to leave his side trailing 10-5 at the interval.

Evans had reduced the advantage within a minute of the restart with a straightforward penalty, but finally Saints took advantage of their numerical superiority.

They put together a string of passes with Furbank and Tom Collins combining to create a try for Grayson before excellent inter-play saw replacement Auterac trundle over from close range. Grayson converted both and Gloucester had a mountain to climb.

Clement returned from the sin-bin in time to see his side pick up their second try before Grayson gave Saints breathing space with his second penalty.

Grayson then attempted a drop goal but it was charged down by Freddie Clarke, who picked up to race away before feeding Jonny May, who was narrowly foiled by some desperate defence.

However, May was not to be denied for long, as minutes later he forced his way over with Grayson sin-binned for a high tackle on the wing but Saints had the final say with their bonus-point try from Wood.

Elsewhere, Leicester achieved a 34-19 win at home to Exeter, Worcester defeated London Irish 36-24, and Sale edged Bath 20-19.

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