Northampton Saints 19 Gloucester 13: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
When a mascot and a pantomime villain are the main source of entertainment, you know the game was a tough watch.
And that was certainly the case at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday as a patchy Saints performance was met by an even sloppier showing from Gloucester.
Both teams were almost unrecognisable, in terms of personnel, from the ones which took to the field in the nervy Aviva Premiership encounter a couple of weeks ago.
But the lack of cohesion and attacking cut and thrust was very similar.
That is nothing against Saints’ young guns, who once again performed with real guts and gusto, as they had in the win at Newcastle six days earlier.
Once again, they got the win their club wanted, meaning it is now three victories in a row for Jim Mallinder’s men.
But in slippery conditions, very little stuck for either side, making for extremely dour fare.
Thankfully Bernie, the Saints mascot, was on hand to entertain the children with a dance in front of the stands.
And another positive was the contribution of Gloucester lock Joe Latta, who wound up the more senior members of the crowd with some provocative gestures.
Latta then grabbed the ball, took it into contact and conceded a penalty, to a backdrop of satisfied cheers from the Saints supporters.
And those cheers grew louder a few seconds later as Latta was substituted.
Bernie and Latta were the characters for which this game will be remembered.
But, in truth, it won’t be remembered past the current weekend.
And that is not what the youngsters in both teams will have wanted as they bid to make their way into the Premiership picture from next week onwards.
There were some positive signs from the likes of Sam Olver and Rory Hutchinson once again, but the nature of the game meant they couldn’t really stamp their mark on it.
And that will have been a frustration for the enthusiastic fledgling talents.
But it is clear that they have promise and, crucially, they have helped their club build a winning habit in recent weeks.
Saints can now go to Worcester next Friday on a good run, and that was all that could be asked of the men charged with wearing the green, black and gold.
No, this game won’t be put on DVDs and sold in the club shop at Christmas, but the mentality of the Saints youngsters has at least provided a little reason to cheer.
How they rated...
Ran into trouble once during the first half, but was largely sound, as usual, as Saints got the job done... 6
Made his first start of the season and was typically gritty as he tried to take the fight to Gloucester, but there were few backs moves of note... 6
Impressed at Newcastle six days earlier, but couldn’t really dominate this game as he would have liked... 6
Was always alert as he latched onto some tidy chips from Olver and he was Saints’ main attacking threat... 7
No real chances to use his trademark speed as the game was often compact with little creativity... 6
Some kicks from hand went astray and frustrated the crowd, but he kicked well from the tee again and landed a tidy drop goal... 7
Brought plenty of energy to proceedings as he tried to find gaps in the Gloucester rearguard... 7
ETHAN WALLER - CHRON STAR MAN
Was the man who looked most likely to make metres for Saints, carrying well and looking strong in the scrum. Saints had only conceded three points when he went off... 7
Managed to score his first Saints try as he made the most of a big drive from the forwards and he did well throughout... 7
Plenty of power from the prop, who always puts in a strong performance, taking the game to Gloucester... 7
This man has impressed in both Anglo-Welsh Cup outings and it won’t be long until he is gracing the Premiership team... 7
Won so many lineouts, ruining the Gloucester set piece with alarming regularity, in a big first appearance of the season... 7
His experience was important in a young pack and he was useful in the set piece, getting his hands dirty in tough conditions... 7
Never shirks a challenge and the youngster puts his body where it hurts for his team, showing his desire to impress... 7
A big display from the Saints skipper, who made plenty of ground and who was missed when he went off... 7
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
TEIMANA HARRISON (for Dickinson 53)
Was released by England earlier in the week and will have wanted to have a big impact, but Gloucester started to turn the tide late on... 6
LEE DICKSON (for Kessell 55)
Always likes to inject extra tempo, but Saints failed to get on the front foot during the closing stages of the game, which became more tense than anticipated... 6