Northampton Saints 23 Gloucester 20: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
Consistency was the buzzword in the build-up to Saints' game against Gloucester.
The players and coaches were striving to achieve it.
They wanted to stop the ‘lose, react’ cycle that has blighted their chances this season.
Momentum has yet to be garnered, but in a few senses Saints have been consistent.
The past couple of away games have seen them put in consistently poor performances.
But the past three home games have seen them edge to consistently nail-biting victories.
They beat Exeter Chiefs by a point, Montpellier by two and now Gloucester by three.
Keep this up and they will be racking up some big home victories come the end of the campaign.
But even if they are able to do that, this is likely to be looked at as one of the most important of the season.
Because, however they did it, Saints desperately needed to bounce back from what happened in Castres last weekend.
That 41-7 France flaying was the nadir of Jim Mallinder’s time as Northampton director of rugby.
And he and the rest of his coaches needed a reaction.
The players had to show the supporters that they still possessed the fight.
That what happened across the Channel hadn’t sucked any self-belief they had left from their bodies.
And although this way an ugly win, in a game between two confidence-starved sides, it was a pretty result for those of a green, black and gold persuasion.
It won’t be anywhere near enough to convince the doubters, because neither Saints nor Gloucester were impressive.
But it does at least make the league table look a bit better going into two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup matches.
If Saints’ young guns can grab a couple of wins in that competition, there will finally be some momentum.
And if they can win at Newcastle Falcons next weekend, the club will have recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
But that is for another day.
What mattered this weekend was that the Saints fans headed home having seen a victory.
It might have been so tight, with Gloucester threatening to win it at the end, but Saints eventually got over the line.
Once again Louis Picamoles dragged them there by the scruff of the neck, continuing to stake his claim for Premiership signing of the summer.
The Frenchman refuses to relent in his bid to put Saints back where they feel they belong.
They are a long way from there yet, but, as they say, the first step on a journey is the hardest.
Saints have at least taken it, and now they must keep putting one foot in front of the other during the weeks and months to come, rather than taking one step forward and two back.
How they rated...
Saints have been consistently inconsistent, but this man has managed to achieve a run of good games, continually showing character and commitment... 7
Didn’t get too many chances to get in the game in the final third, but did show some nice footwork at times... 6
Wasn’t involved too much as the Saints backs tried to break the line but often weren’t able to... 6
His kicking was important in gaining Saints territory and he was always looking to make something happen, but Gloucester ran him about a bit in defence... 6
Thought he’d scored in the first half only to see it ruled out for a forward pass, but he continued to plug away... 6
Kicked really well from the tee, refusing to miss a kick as Saints racked up the points needed for victory... 7
Tried to play his typically up-tempo game and flew around the field, but Gloucester did well in their attempts to shackle him... 6
Helped Saints to compete up front against a physical Gloucester pack and put in a steady enough showing... 7
Always puts a shift in and this was no different as he relentlessly tried to push Gloucester back... 7
Always tries to blast holes in the opposition and although he was frustrated with his own handling on one occasion, he did okay... 6
Has enjoyed a consistent start to the campaign and after coming in at late notice for Courtney Lawes, he worked hard... 6
Made his first appearance of the season after returning from a bicep injury and he was typically assured... 6
The captain once again gave everything for the cause, desperately trying to push his team forward and defending well... 8
Unlucky to be forced off inside the first 10 minutes, so it wouldn’t be fair to give him a rating for such a short spell on the field.
LOUIS PICAMOLES - CHRON STAR MAN
One try, one assist and yet another gargantuan display from the Frenchman, who has been an incredible signing... 8
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
JAMIE GIBSON (for Clark 9)
A really strong showing from the flanker, who made sure that Saints didn’t miss Clark as he covered plenty of ground... 8
DYLAN HARTLEY (for Haywood 57)
The England skipper attracted praise from boss Jim Mallinder after a showing that helped Saints get the job done... 7
PAUL HILL (for Brookes 57)
Played his part in a big final push that prevented Gloucester from registering the points they needed to win the game... 7
API RATUNIYARAWA (for Paterson 59)
Carried well again and always looks likely to make an impact when he comes off the bench... 7