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Stunning pictures from Saints win over Gloucester

Northampton 33 – 26 Gloucester

A thrilling home win restored some belief for Saints fans off the back of defeats at the hands of Leinster and Sale in the run up to Christmas.

The prospect of Gloucester being guided around Franklin’s Gardens by the talismanic Danny Cipriani was far from an inviting one and the game started ominously with a break away try from the superb young winger Louis Rees-Zammit.

Saints put together some sparkling phases but Gloucester’s defence soaked it up and the home side had to look for another way in.

Piers Francis was punching holes, Taqele Naiyaravoro almost broke through the brambles but was denied by a rip from Cipriani who in turn was feeling the full force of Teimana Harrison’s urge to rampage.

Gloucester began to leak penalties and it was the boot of Dan Biggar that finally unlocked the scoreboard for Saints.

With no James Grayson on the bench the question of who might step in to the number 10 spot was raised early when Biggar found himself on the floor getting a wounded leg strapped up.

Furbank deputised for a kick and Piers Francis shifted position in the second half when Biggar’s removal allowed Ahsee Tuala to join the action.

Given that the pundits main criticism of Saints during their recent defeats was that they were “underpowered” it is perhaps ironic that their first try came via a good old rolling maul that dropped veteran hooker Mikey Haywood over the touchline for a score.

Slideshow of Dave Ikin pictures

In fact the Saints scrum looked pretty good all afternoon with internationals Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam doing a six-cylinder job.

Saints may not be able to flump their way to boring but reliable victories with weight and thuggery but on their day the whole line crackles with threat of one kind or another.

No-one embodies that more than Man of the Match Cobus Reinach who bagged two tries with his jump-jet ability to launch unexpected opportunist attacks.

And the scores were vital because for the cherry and whites Rees-Zammit was also having a great game, notching a hat trick of tries but still not securing the win.

Although he didn’t grab any headlines George Furbank deserves a mention in despatches for his versatility and despite being so fresh out of the academy becoming one of those players that you not only wouldn’t replace with someone from our squad but as I’m typing this, I can’t think of any other full back I would rather have.

Furbank, like this group of players, has a long way to go, but wins like this one do make you feel like Saints – once masterful exponents of sledgehammer rugby – may yet prove there is another way to win at this game.

All pictures by Dave Ikin

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