North treble helps Saints smash Gloucester

STUNNING START - Saints smashed Gloucester at Franklin's Gardens (Picture: Sharon Lucey)

STUNNING START - Saints smashed Gloucester at Franklin's Gardens (Picture: Sharon Lucey)

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George North grabbed a hat-trick as Saints’ title defence began with a gargantuan 53-6 victory against new-look Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens.

North completed his treble early in the second half, rubbing salt in the wounds of the Cherry and Whites who were eviscerated, shipping eight tries on a sobering night.

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-011636009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-011636009

George Pisi, with a picturebook score, Luther Burrell, with an effort either side of the break, Kahn Fotuali’i and debutant Jon Fisher also cashed in as Jim Mallinder’s men picked up where they left off in the Aviva Premiership.

It was a chilling statement of intent from the Saints, who were unrelenting, quelling fears that last season’s success may have filled the bellies ahead of the new campaign.

For Gloucester, it was a chastening experience as only a penalty apiece from new half-backs Greig Laidlaw and James Hook provided any consolation.

Henry Trinder’s second-half sin-binning compounded the visitors’ misery on a night when everything went the way of the rampant Saints.

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-011625009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-011625009

The hosts had displayed their desire from the off, playing at a breathless pace, keeping Gloucester under pressure inside the opening five minutes.

North started as he meant to go on with a huge hit before being taken out, seemingly off the ball, by Gloucester lock Tom Savage.

Referee Wayne Barnes was, at that point, occupying his traditional role as pantomime villain, getting on the wrong side of the home fans by deciding there was no offence.

North had been down injured for a couple of minutes, but, to the relief of everyone of a green, black and gold persuasion, he got back up to help Saints turn the screw.

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002500009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002500009

Ken Pisi’s kick ahead was just too long before North nailed Charlie Sharples, with Barnes deciding the Wales wing had knocked on, drawing more loud jeers from the Gardens fans.

But those jeers turned to ironic cheers soon after as Alex Corbisiero claimed first blood in the intriguing scrum battle with John Afoa, and Barnes awarded a penalty.

Myler slotted it to give his side a 12th-minute lead, with Laidlaw missing an immediate chance to reply, firing his penalty from wide left against the crossbar.

But Gloucester were level on 19 minutes as Barnes penalised Corbisiero at the scrum and Hook struck the penalty well from the right touchline

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002531009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002531009

Saints weren’t fazed and, as they did so often last season, turned down a shot at goal to go for the corner. The ball was used well and Burrell sent a tidy pass to North, who scored.

Myler drew a roar, like a golfer driving from the tee, as he landed a fine conversion from out wide and the home side had the impetus, with the vociferous crowd at their backs.

Samu Manoa restated the dominance with a jackhammer hit on Billy Twelvetrees, but Gloucester got more joy at the scrum soon after, earning a penalty that Hook missed.

Saints were soon at the door again, and a moment of brilliance from Myler had the fans on their feet.

The fly-half used the advantage to measure a fine chip over the Gloucester rearguard and George Pisi caught it before diving under the posts.

Myler added the gloss with the simple conversion and the Gardens atmosphere was crackling, reminiscent of the May night when Leicester Tigers were slayed.

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002541009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002541009

Laidlaw issued a response four minutes before the break with a penalty from in front of the posts, but there was still time for Saints to strike again.

Another slick move, involving great play from James Wilson and Ken Pisi, was finished superbly by North, who displayed some dazzling footwork.

Myler took the gap to 18 points at the break, leaving the home fans puffing out their cheeks in recognition of a flying start to the season.

And they made a similarly fast start to the second half, taking just four minutes to grab the bonus point as Wilson’s rapid break was finished by Burrell.

Myler again superbly made the conversion from the touchline and the home fans were in dreamland.

For Gloucester, meanwhile, things were going from bad to worse as Trinder was yellow carded for a cynical trip.

And Saints soon twisted the knife as North grabbed a lofted pass and dived over for his hat-trick. This time, Myler displayed his mortality by missing the conversion.

But it mattered not to Northampton. They were rampant and Fotuali’i, having just emerged from the bench, made it a super six for the Saints with a clever try down the blindside.

Fisher, on for Manoa, also wasted no time getting in on the act as he finished off a flowing team try before Burrell jogged under the posts for an eighth score.

Gloucester players were left grounded, while the Gardens faithful celebrated a start to the new season so emphatic it could scarcely be believed.

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi (Foden 58), Burrell, North; Myler (Hooley 67), L Dickson (Fotuali’i 56); Corbisiero (A Waller 50),Hartley (c) (McMillan 66), Ma’afu (Denman 50); Lawes (Craig 58), C Day; Clark, Wood, Manoa (Fisher 50).

Gloucester: Cook (McColl 65); Sharples, Trinder, Twelvetrees (c) (Atkinson 69), May; Hook, Laidlaw (Robson 62); Murphy (Y Thomas 69), Hibbard (Dawidiuk 62), Afoa (Puafisi 65); Savage, Hudson (Palmer 62); Kalamafoni, Rowan, Morgan.

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Attendance: 13,374

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002247009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002247009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002237009

Saints V Gloucester. NNL-140609-002237009