Furbank shines as Saints see off Gloucester in season opener
George Furbank played a starring role as Saints got the new Gallagher Premiership season off to a winning start against Gloucester.
Furbank was involved in all that was good about the black, green and gold, scoring the opening try and playing a part in the other three as his side bagged a bonus-point 34-20 success on opening day.
Gloucester were hit by two sin-binnings during the first period but Saints couldn't quite kill them off and, when James Grayson was yellow carded with 10 minutes to go, nerves started to jangle.
But Tom Wood finished the job with a bonus-point try, scoring with his side down to 14 men as he has done on a previous memorable occasion.
And the Saints fans, who were finally allowed back to cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens without capacity limitations, celebrated their side's welcome win.
Chris Boyd's men had looked keen to impress from the off, almost scoring inside three minutes.
But after Rory Hutchinson profited from a kind bounce of the ball and offloaded, Gloucester scrambled to stop the hosts just short.
The away side threatened to spoil the party when Ollie Thorley flew towards the 22, but Teimana Harrison won a penalty, and then great work from Fraser Dingwall earned another.
That allowed Grayson to give Saints the lead with a simple penalty from in front of the posts.
And Grayson was soon adding a conversion after Saints pieced together a slick move involving Wood and Alex Mitchell, finished in fine fashion by Furbank.
Gloucester looked to have responded after putting together a training ground move at an attacking lineout, but Jack Clement's effort was ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.
Saints had a big chance to extend their lead but David Ribbans was unable to gather a Mitchell pass cleanly and the opportunity was missed.
Gloucester were starting to come under increasing pressure but Saints were struggling to score after kicking a succession of penalties to the corner.
Gloucester hooker Jack Singleton was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on but the home side's lineout was creaking, preventing them from maintaining momentum.
And they were soon hit by a sucker punch as 14-man Gloucester sent Thorley in on the left.
Lloyd Evans missed the conversion to leave the gap at five points but the game was becoming really fragmented.
It took a saving tackle from Grayson to stop Clement charging over the line after intercepting a James Fish pass, and Grayson celebrated in style after his side won a penalty to escape.
Saints had further chances to build their lead before the break, mounting one final attack after Clement was yellow carded.
But Gloucester were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the hosts continued to squander opportunities.
And the men in light blue bagged the first points of the second half as Ehren Painter was penalised for not rolling away and Evans did the rest from the tee.
But that stung Saints into life and some great footwork and offloading from Furbank and Tom Collins allowed Grayson to score in the corner.
The fly-half added the conversion with aplomb, and he was notching a much simpler effort two minutes later after Furbank and Mitchell played key roles in Nick Auterac's try, the prop's first for Saints.
Furbank was soon flying forward again, but Saints couldn't quite capitalise on the acres of space afforded to them as Gloucester got off the hook.
Clement returned to give the away side a timely boost, while Saints introduced Juarno Augustus for his Premiership debut, drawing a huge roar from the home fans.
But Gloucester wouldn't go quietly and they grabbed a score after kicking a penalty to the corner, flanker Jordy Reid finding his way through far too easily.
Evans converted to reduce the deficit to nine points, but Grayson immediately extended it to 12 after Paul Hill helped to win a penalty in opposition territory.
Furbank and Collins had to work hard to stop Jonny May scoring in the corner with 15 minutes to go as Saints nerves started to jangle a little.
May did get the score he wanted soon after though, as the Gardens fell silent.
Billy Twelvetrees missed the conversion to leave Saints seven points ahead, but they would have to play the final 10 minutes a man down after Grayson was sin-binned for a shoulder charge on May after the wing had scored the try.
But Saints, as they so often do, rallied with 14 men rather than relented and a flowing move saw Furbank go close before Wood picked up the pieces to score.
Furbank added the conversion to what was the bonus-point try for Saints, and they held a 34-20 lead with five minutes to play.
Augustus, who looked a man on a mission, won a key penalty inside his own 22 to bring another huge roar from the home fans as Saints moved closer to victory.
And when Connor Tupai kicked the ball out, the win was confirmed, bringing another huge cheer from the jubilant home support.
Saints: Furbank; Proctor, Dingwall, Hutchinson (Tuala 64), Collins; Grayson, Mitchell (Tupai 61); Waller (Auterac 46), Fish (Haywood 55), Painter (Hill 46); Ribbans (Coles 61), Moon (Ratuniyarawa 46); Wood, Ludlam (c), Harrison (Augustus 50).
Gloucester: Moyle (Kveseladze 60); May, Seabrook (Hastings 60), Twelvetrees, Thorley; Evans, Meehan (Varney 55); Elrington Ford-Robinson 50), Singleton (Walker 50), Balmain (Gotovtsev 50); Morgan (Ackermann 60), Davidson (Clarke 50); Reid, Ludlow (c), Clement.
Referee: Karl Dickson