Grobler’s late TMO try drama seals it for Gloucester
GERAINT Grobler sneaked over in the last minute to save Gloucester’s blushes as Saints looked set to remain unbeaten in the competition with a third straight victory.
As Gloucester pummelled the visitors’ line in the dying moments, the referee signalled a penalty – but was alerted by his assistant that the TMO had spotted Grobler appearing to score in the previous passage of play.
The replays proved this to be correct and Billy Twelvetrees’ conversion brought Gloucester to within one point of their opponents in the Pool 3 table with one game remaining.
Gloucester’s defence coach, Jonny Bell, said: “We are relieved to get the win so we can go down to our final game at Bath with something to play for but it was a very scrappy performance.”
Gloucester contributed to their sloppy performance by selecting centre Mark Atkinson at fly-half whereas Twelvetrees would have been the more obvious choice.
Atkinson was poor, taking a host of wrong options, so that the wholehearted efforts of his forwards went largely unrewarded.
Gareth Evans and James Hanson were the pick of the home eight with Ruan Ackermann adding grunt as a second half replacement but an out-of-sorts Willi Heinz and Atkinson couldn’t provide the accuracy to get dangerous wings, Matt Banahan and Ollie Thorley, more involved.
Hence Saints were allowed to remain in contention longer than they had any right to, especially when they lost two experienced players with injury, had a player sin-binned and were forced to endure a malfunctioning line-out.
David Ribbans just about managed to keep it afloat and there were heroic defensive efforts from Tom Wood and Lewis Ludlam, with Cobus Reinach a bundle of tricks at scrumhalf.
Youngsters George Furbank and Fraser Dingwall also impressed but James Grayson was erratic and ultimately his two missed kicks cost his side the match.
Saints took an early lead when Piers Francis and Furbank combined cleverly in a 30-metre move for Francis to score.
Grayson missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty but the visitors continued to dominate before a succession of setbacks gave Gloucester a foothold into the game.
First Francis departed with a head wound before Banahan intercepted a pass from Grayson to canter in from 30 metres.
On his 200th appearance for Saints, hooker Mikey Haywood became their second casualty with a leg injury to complete a miserable celebration as his side had already lost three lineouts prior to his departure.
Prop Paul Hill followed him off the field, sin-binned for impeding Heinz as the scrum-half took a quick penalty but Gloucester couldn’t capitalise.
Northampton regained the lead when Reinach fielded a Heinz box-kick before skilfully creating space for Tom Collins, whose kick ahead was collected by Reinach to score.
From then on it was all Gloucester but they huffed and puffed to no avail, until Grobler’s late effort.
Interception: Matt Banahan breaks clear to score Gloucester’s first try
Live-wire: Cobus Reinach goes over for Saints’ second try