Northampton Saints 7 Gloucester 31: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Lethargic, lifeless, flat, foul - call this what you like.

Sunday, 9th May 2021, 1:28 pm
Updated Sunday, 9th May 2021, 1:30 pm
It was a miserable afternoon for Saints at Franklin's Gardens

There was no sugarcoating for Saints on Saturday as they turned in one of their worst performances in recent memory.

There have been bigger defeats during the past decade, but the nature of this one means it is a firm contender for their nadir under boss Chris Boyd.

While the likes of Saracens and Leinster have dished out sizeable beatings in Northampton, at least that was Saracens and Leinster.

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No disrespect is meant here to Gloucester, a side with plenty of potential threats, some of whom - like Jonny May and Chris Harris - weren't even playing on this occasion.

But this was a fifth-placed Saints side seemingly very much in the hunt for the top four against a side sitting 10th in the standings, having won just one of their past 11 league away games.

And what unfolded was nothing short of shambolic from a Saints perspective.

They only really once threatened inside the Gloucester 22, and that was when Henry Taylor scored with his side already 28-0 down.

Lineout after lineout went astray and penalty after penalty was endured.

Referee Ian Tempest used his whistle like it was going out of fashion as the hosts found themselves punished in an alarmingly frequent manner.

Saints simply could not get anything going, and rarely could they even get out of their own half, especially during the incredibly abject first 40 minutes.

After having last week off, you expected them to come out fresh and firing against a Gloucester side with far less to play for.

But this proved to be the complete antithesis.

Gloucester were in the groove, playing with tempo and appetite while Saints were all at sea, drifting from one error to another like a drunk constantly bumping into the bar.

It has been too often the case this season that they have taken one step forward and two back - and here they were again.

Except this was more 10 back than two.

Saints were so subdued that you wondered whether they were still on holiday as Gloucester took advantage of their sluggishness time and again.

The Cherry and Whites ended the day with a rare bonus-point away win - and it wasn't even close.

In fact, had Billy Twelvetrees brought his kicking boots, the scoreline would have been akin to those horrible days against the likes of Saracens and Leinster in years gone by.

Boyd likened the Saints showing to something a dog walker may collect in a little bag, and he will now be desperate for them to flush this game immediately.

Because unless they do, and then go on to win all four of their remaining regular-season games, they stand no chance of making the play-offs.

You have to say that those hopes are already slim.

And if Saints play like this again, they will be non-existent.

It was a damaging day and one that will leave everyone scratching their heads.

How could Saints work so hard to win at Leicester and then throw it all away in this manner?

That is the million dollar question and one that needs answering if this team is ever to become a title contender again.

Every side has a bad day, but the likes of Exeter and Bristol may do it only a couple of times a season.

For Saints, backing up characterful wins with hugely disappointing defeats has become an extremely unwelcome habit.

And until that lesson is learned once and for all, the hopes of a Premiership trophy being placed in the Gardens trophy cabinet will be an all too distant dream.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

A day to forget for the full-back, who filled in at 10 when Biggar went off injured. Kicked the ball straight out at the start of the second half and a crossfield kick from inside his own 22 led to a Gloucester try... 3

MATT PROCTOR

Wasn't able to make any sort of mark on the game and found himself involved in a minor scuffle with Louis Rees-Zammit after the Gloucester wing scored his second try of the game... 3

RORY HUTCHINSON

Had no real front foot ball in dangerous areas to work with, and without that he wasn't able to get into the game... 3

PIERS FRANCIS

Found himself in the sin bin during the second half for his part in a post-try scuffle and couldn't have an impact on the game itself... 3

TOMMY FREEEMAN

The young back has done so much so well this season but this was a much tougher experience than he has had before. Was unable to gather one kick that led to a Gloucester score... 3

DAN BIGGAR

Was involved in a heavy collision with Billy Twelvetrees and failed a HIA, meaning he was only able to play 19 minutes, and Saints missed him even though they were struggling before he went off

TOM JAMES

Has been hugely impressive this season but couldn't really get anything going here as Saints barely had a sniff in opposition territory while he was on the field... 3.5

ALEX WALLER

The co-captain wasn't able to inspire his troops on this occasion and he looked bemused at times by the decisions that kept going against him and his team... 3

SAM MATAVESI

Saints' lineout was all at sea in this game and though the hooker can't take all the blame, he won't be happy with how it went. Did make plenty of tackles... 3

PAUL HILL

Wasn't able to continue his impressive campaign on this occasion as he had a tricky day against a Gloucester team who targeted the set piece among other aspects of the game... 3

DAVID RIBBANS

Made some big carries for his side but found himself on the wrong side of the referee on a number of occasions here... 3

API RATUNIYARAWA

Not a happy return for the likeable lock as he couldn't really get anything going and Gloucester took him on... 3.5

TOM WOOD

Looked dismayed at what unfolded as he tried to have a say with some carries and hits but Saints were well beaten... 4

LEWIS LUDLAM

Worked hard as ever and made a team-high 15 tackles without missing one as he did what he could to get his team into the game... 5

TEIMANA HARRISON

Was desperate to get something going for his team and showed plenty of fire and desire but it just wasn't happening... 4.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO (for Biggar 19)

Rarely got a chance to run at the opposition and one offload proved costly as Gloucester pouched it and went on to score... 3

JAMES FISH (for Matavesi 53)

Tried to help steady the ship a little and didn't do too badly but this wasn't an easy game to come into... 4

NICK AUTERAC (for Waller 53)

Saints were being put under pressure at the set piece and there was no turning the tide... 3.5

EHREN PAINTER (for Hill 53)

Returned from the back injury that sidelined him at Leicester but this wasn't an enjoyable comeback for the prop as his team suffered overall... 3.5

ALEX MOON (for Ratuniyarawa 57)

Couldn't really have an impact on the game as Saints were already well behind and well out of it... 4

HENRY TAYLOR (for James 57)

Managed to inject a little tempo and scored Saints' only try of the game, but it wasn't much to celebrate... 5

CHRON STAR MAN - JORDY REID (Gloucester)