Sinning Saints get off to losing start at Gloucester

Nafi Tuitavake was on the wing for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Nafi Tuitavake was on the wing for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints were unable to pick up any points from a promising opening-day performance as Gloucester grabbed a 27-16 win at Kingsholm.

Ehren Painter was denied a last-gasp score by the TMO, meaning the black, green and gold failed to claim a losing bonus point after a spirited showing.

Saints took the fight to Gloucester

Saints took the fight to Gloucester

Saints, under the guidance of new boss Chris Boyd for the first time in the Gallagher Premiership, dominated for long spells after half-time.

But even though Gloucester were hit by two yellow cards during the 80 minutes, the away side could not capitalise to a great effect.

Gloucester were 10 points up at the break thanks to scores from hooker James Hanson and wing Charlie Sharples, who was set up by a superb Danny Cipriani pass.

Saints scored a magical try of their own thanks to the fine work of full-back Ahsee Tuala, who opened the door for Piers Francis to score.

Dan Biggar did well defensively

Dan Biggar did well defensively

And Boyd's men bossed things after the break, only to be met with a wall of cherry and white resistance.

Saints also shipped far too many penalties - 15 in total - and it was apt that Gloucester rounded things off with a Billy Twelvetrees kick.

That had been how things started as Saints conceded a penalty at the breakdown and Twelvetrees did the rest from the tee, bringing a big roar from the fans in The Shed.

Saints were under all sorts of pressure early on and Gloucester sensed their opportunity, kicking to the corner and shoving their way over the line.

Hanson was the man benefiting from the big lineout drive as his side used a weapon that Saints had profited from so often in their blemish-free pre-season.

Centre Twelvetrees missed the conversion from out wide but their fans were in full voice, jeering Dan Biggar after he booted the ball straight out from the resulting kick-off.

Saints were rocking after a sobering opening six minutes, but when they finally got their hands on the ball, Gloucester infringed, giving Biggar his first points in black, green and gold.

But Samoan ace Tuala conceded a penalty from the restart, with Twelvetrees immediately cancelling out Biggar's kick.

Tuala's shaky start soon faded into the distant past as he conjured up a moment of magic, holding off a couple of tackles before providing a back-door offload for Francis to score.

Biggar missed the conversion and Gloucester looked set to reply with a penalty but that was reversed for a neck roll off the ball from Ed Slater on Alex Waller.

Former Leicester lock Slater was sent to the sin bin and Biggar levelled things up with a penalty after a spell of relentless Saints pressure.

But Gloucester then turned the tables, counter-rucking well and masterminding a clever attack that ended with Biggar stopping Matt Banahan scoring in the corner.

Referee Matthew Carley did pull things back for a Heinrich Brüssow high tackle on Jason Woodward, with the home fans baying for a yellow card.

But it was only a penalty, which Twelvetrees kicked to put Gloucester 14-11 up.

Slater returned with his team having done well in his absence and Gloucester were to grab a superb score before the break as Cipriani's excellently-executed long pass paved the way for Sharples to finish in the corner.

Twelvetrees kicked to give his team a 10-point lead at the interval.

But Saints emerged with the bit between their teeth at the start of the second half, keeping Gloucester on their toes, with scrum-half Cobus Reinach a real threat.

The home side were fortunate that the black, green and gold's attacking game wasn't quite clicking, with three good attacking positions wasted.

Gloucester were struggling to get a foothold in the game, but Saints were letting them off the hook, continually conceding avoidable penalties.

And after Jamie Gibson infringed, Twelvetrees slotted a kick that put his team 24-11 up with fewer than 20 minutes to go.

The fact those were the first points of the second half said a lot about Saints' profligacy in possession and Gloucester's struggle to get on the front foot.

Saints were running out of time but they got a big opportunity after Tom Collins broke and forced Gloucester replacement Tom Hudson to kill the ball, earning himself a yellow card in the process.

Saints booted the penalty to the corner and eventually rumbled over, with lock Courtney Lawes getting the ball down to breathe new hope into his team's bid.

Biggar missed a key conversion from close to the touchline and Gloucester remained 24-16 ahead.

Saints continued to concede penalty after penalty, with Brüssow a regular offender, and Twelvetrees put the game out of sight with another kick.

There was still time for Biggar to fluff his third restart of the day, presenting Gloucester with a scrum, which yielded a penalty.

Twelvetrees took it on from halfway but missed.

Saints thought they had scored after the clock hit 80, but replacement prop Painter was denied by the TMO as his side missed out on a losing bonus point.

Gloucester: Woodward (Hudson 63); Sharples, Trinder, Twelvetrees, Banahan; Cipriani, Braley (Vellacott 38); Rapava-Ruskin (Hohneck 58), Hanson (Marais 58), Balmain (Knight 70); Slater (c), Galaraza (Polledri 64); Ackermann (Clarke 72), Ludlow, Morgan.

Saints: Tuala (Grayson 72): Tuitavake (Pisi 53), Burrell, Francis, Collins; Biggar, Reinach (Mitchell 68); Waller (c) (van Wyk 63), Fish (Hartley 50), Franks (Painter 64); Ribbans (Ratuniyarawa 21), Lawes; Ludlam (Gibson 60), Brüssow, Harrison.

Referee: Matthew Carley