Gloucester dismantle Northampton as Lion Dan Biggar leaves game early with concussion

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·5-min read
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Gloucester dismantle Northampton as Dan Biggar leaves game early with concussion - David Rogers /Getty Images
Gloucester dismantle Northampton as Dan Biggar leaves game early with concussion - David Rogers /Getty Images

Northampton Saints 7 Gloucester 31

In terms of bad days at the office, Northampton swore at their boss, spilt coffee on their clothes and chucked the printer out the window. This performance was as clueless and lacklustre as the Saints have been in the Chris Boyd era, in a major blow to their play-off hopes.

The early exit of talismanic fly-half Dan Biggar, who failed a Head Injury Assessment, did not help the Saints’ cause. Warren Gatland, in the stands at Franklin’s Gardens, on Thursday named Biggar in his squad for this summer’s tour of South Africa and the Lions head coach would have hoped to witness a grand battle of his Welsh Lions, with Louis Rees-Zammit on the wing for Gloucester, but such a contest never transpired.

In any case, Biggar, declared “Ok and asymptomatic” by Boyd, would have had to put in some performance to overshadow Rees-Zammit, who scored two of Gloucester’s tries in the bonus-point win – their biggest of the season, and Northampton’s biggest defeat.

When asked for his take on Northampton’s dire showing, their director of rugby could not offer one positive. “Not a single redeeming feature,” Boyd said. “The English are good when they walk their dogs, they pick up stuff to put in those little bags. We had a big one of those bags today.

“There was something in our preparation and performance that was unacceptable. Everyone in the changing room is pretty embarrassed.”

For all that was bad about Northampton, however, there was plenty of good about Gloucester, who registered just their second away win this season. There was fizz up front, embodied by the industriousness of flanker Jordy Reid, while the string-pulling of centre Mark Atkinson allowed the pace of Rees-Zammit to flourish.

After fly-half Billy Twelvetrees gave the visitors an early lead from the tee, the Atkinson-Rees-Zammit axis came to the fore. The centre, who cannot be far away from higher honours, flicked the subtlest of inside balls to wing Santiago Carreras, before an inviting pass allowed Rees-Zammit to score.

The 20-year-old Welsh flyer, who was not aware that Gatland was in attendance, said that he was “over the moon” with his Lions selection.

Gloucester dismantle Northampton as Dan Biggar leaves game early with concussion - Steve Feeney /Steve Feeney 
Gloucester dismantle Northampton as Dan Biggar leaves game early with concussion - Steve Feeney /Steve Feeney

“I had training five minutes later so it didn’t quite sink in, but I had a meal with my mum, dad and brother,” Rees-Zammit said. “I’m absolutely buzzing. But I can’t do anything more than put my best foot forward for Gloucester.”

A tempest brewed over South West London last Wednesday while Gatland and his Lions lieutenants crossed the Ts and dotted the Is on their final selection for this summer’s tour; and, to paraphrase Crowded House, the head coach brought the gloomy weather with him up to the East Midlands, too.

The match’s opening would have registered as coolly on a barometer as the breeze that whipped around Franklin’s Gardens. Accuracy and intent were in short supply for both teams, with the lineout a lottery. As Gloucester improved, however, many an abacus would have been required to tot up the Saints’ errors; their set-piece capitulated, too.

After a half-time orange, during which Northampton trailed by 10 points, it could surely only get better. George Furbank had other ideas as he scuffed his restart directly into touch. The Northampton full-back’s radar malfunctioned even more catastrophically moments later, as a wayward cross-kick on his own line landed straight into the bread basket of Reid. The flanker offloaded to Twelvetrees, before Carreras turned provider again as his pass sent lock Ed Slater trotting over unopposed to score.

Until Slater’s score, with everything else going to pot, the scoreline, at least, looked vaguely respectable for Northampton. When hooker Jack Singleton scored from a driving maul, however, the match was dead and buried.

Rees-Zammit’s second score, which came with a perfectly timed chase of scrum-half Willi Heinz’s box-kick, secured the bonus point, and it also exacerbated Northampton’s frustrations. In the post-score fracas, Piers Francis and Carreras were sent to the bin, while Rees-Zammit’s eventual replacement, Tom Seabrook, saw yellow moments later after a failed interception, leaving the visitors with just 13 men.

The extra man did allow for a late Northampton rally to avoid the home whitewash, but scrum-half Henry Taylor’s late snipe barely registered as a consolation. This match belonged to Gloucester and this week belonged to their cheetah, now a Lion, Rees-Zammit.

Gloucester dismantle Northampton as Dan Biggar leaves game early with concussion - David Rogers /Getty Images
Gloucester dismantle Northampton as Dan Biggar leaves game early with concussion - David Rogers /Getty Images

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-3 Twelvetrees pen (4 mins); 0-8 Rees-Zammit try (15); 0-10 Twelvetrees con (16); 0-15 Slater try (48); 0-18 Twelvetrees pen (53); 0-23 Singleton try (56); 0-28 Rees-Zammit try (62); 5-28 Taylor try (71); 7-28 Hutchinson con (72); 7-31 Twelvetrees pen (80). HT: 0-10

Northampton: G Furbank; M Proctor (Dingwall 66), R Hutchinson, P Francis, T Freeman; D Biggar (Naiyaravoro 20), T James (Taylor 60); A Waller (co-capt) (Auterac 53), S Matavesi (Fish 53), P Hill (Painter 53), D Ribbans, A Ratuniyarawa (Moon 57), T Wood, L Ludlam (co-capt) (Adendorff 62), T Harrison.

Yellow card: Francis 62

Gloucester: K Moyle; L Rees-Zammit (T Seabrook 63), G Kveseladze, M Atkinson (Barton 77), S Carreras; B Twelvetrees, C Chapman (Heinz 11); V Rapava-Ruskin (O'Connor 78), J Singleton (Socino 63), F Balmain (Ford-Robinson 65), E Slater, M Alemanno, J Reid, L Ludlow (c) (Morgan 69), R Ackermann (J Clement 63).

Yellow card: Carreras 62, Seabrook 65

Referee: Ian Tempest