Gloucester 33 Northampton Saints 33 - Tom Vickers’ view and player ratings

Samu Manoa helped haul Saints back into it at Kingsholm (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Samu Manoa helped haul Saints back into it at Kingsholm (picture: Sharon Lucey)

If ever there was an advert for summer rugby this was it.

Two teams full of cut and thrust, a firm surface and plenty of flowing rugby played at a sun-soaked, atmospheric Aviva Premiership ground.

Under blue skies, Gloucester and Saints served up a sizzling treat.

It was a glimpse into what could be should there be a way to rearrange the global calendar and play more games during the summer months.

Of course, that is unlikely to happen.

And, if we’re honest, what makes rugby union so great is that it tests all elements of a team.

As Jim Mallinder pointed out after this game, the best sides are the ones who find ways to win in wind, rain and sun.

They are able to adapt their game and claim results regardless of the conditions and opposition they face.

Saints have become that all-conquering, all-weather side over recent years.

Indeed during a couple of freezing Friday nights in February, they were forced to use everything in their locker to prevail at Franklin’s Gardens.

And on Saturday they were made to work similarly hard for a share of the spoils.

During a sloppy first-half, they were barely recognisable from the team who claimed title glory last season and who had held a nine-point lead at the top going into this game.

They were outmanoeuvred and outmuscled as the rampant Cherry and Whites surged into what was at one point a 23-6 lead.

Only once have they played that poorly during a first half this season: in the 20-7 defeat at Sale on January 10.

On that occasion, they failed to muster a reaction after the break, falling limply on their sword.

But this time, there was a response.

And what a response it was.

Two superb scores from James Wilson, the second of which may have been even better than Jamie Elliott’s picture-book effort in this fixture last season, revived Mallinder’s men.

And eventually they returned to the team every fan has grown to know and love during recent years.

A trademark Samu Manoa try from the back of a trademark Saints drive was followed by a trademark Stephen Myler kick that earned a 33-33 draw.

It was nothing more than Saints deserved for their efforts in coming back from the dead on a battleground has proven notoriously bloody for them in the past.

Instead of being left with a feeling of disillusionment, the away fans trudged out of the ground with the sun on their face feeling they had been given full value for their entry fee.

And here’s to more of the same as spring settles in where winter once was.

How they rated...

JAMES WILSON

Received a yellow card in the first half, but more than made up for it during the second, putting the finishing touches to two sublime scores... 7

KEN PISI

One failure to clear his lines properly cost Saints territory and he didn’t get as much joy in attack as he usually does...6

GEORGE PISI

Set up Wilson’s first try with a lovely grubber kick and though he missed a couple of tackles, he largely did well... 7

TOM STEPHENSON

Made one superb tackle to stop Steve McColl dotting down and was again a force in attack... 7

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Played his part in Wilson’s superbly-worked second try, but was unable to get much joy aside from that as Gloucester shut the wingers down well... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Celebrated his 250th Saints appearance with an 18-point haul that included a nerveless conversion to claim the draw... 8

KAHN FOTUALI’I

The sparky Samoan tried hard to get his team going during a lifeless first-half display and he finally managed it at the start of the second period... 7

ALEX CORBISIERO

Had a decent enough day in the scrum and looked sharp in the loose - he is getting better after shrugging off a recent injury... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

Another performance packed with energy and enthusiasm, the young hooker is pleased to have experienced lineout gurus Lawes and Wood back to steady the ship... 7

SALESI MA’AFU

Held his own in the set piece and tried to influence things at the breakdown, but Gloucester had been in control for long periods before he exited the action... 6

COURTNEY LAWES

Will surely be catapulted into the England picture next weekend after two impressive starts since returning from injury... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Was forced off with an injury early in the second half, but had put in a decent shift until then... 6

TOM WOOD

The skipper got through so much work as he drove his team back from the brink to earn a draw.... 7

CALUM CLARK

Was unable to stop Dan Murphy scoring as the prop just had too much power, but the flanker did okay apart from that... 6

SAMU MANOA - CHRON STAR MAN

Had a big influence on proceedings as he popped up with a crucial late score and also did some superb work to help set up Wilson’s second try... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

GARETH DENMAN (for Ma’afu 48)

A great cameo from the prop as he got on top of Murphy in the scrum, forcing Gloucester to replace their loosehead... 7

SAM DICKINSON (for Day 48)

Added much-needed power to help wrest back the momentum and ensure Saints got something from the game... 7

LEE DICKSON (for Fotuali’i 54)

A lively figure after his introduction, he thrived as Saints were getting on top and pushing for points... 7