Keith Richardson Report: Saints marched on according to plan
Former Gloucester and England A coach Keith Richardson's weekly column:
HANG onto your seat belts, check the parachute, have your blood pressure monitored and get the pacemaker oiled and re-batteried. Gloucester are at it again!
The Northampton game was always going to be tasty, but the Cherry and Whites were put firmly in their place by a very gritty visiting pack.
They had a simple and productive game plan that went along the lines of: maul it, and, if that fails maul it again.
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The Saints had a driving maul to wonder at and it sucked in too many defending Gloucester players.
It is a phase of the game that saps the strength from defenders' legs and can lead to spectacular results later in the game. It is not at all pretty but it is hugely effective.
The visitors also displayed far better support play from depth and their soft hands paid dividends with a 17-6 half-time lead.
From the safety of the stand, it looked very much like a 30-point job as they had grafted harder for the hard yards and they had two stand-out forwards in Samu Manoa and Soane Tonga'uiha.
The referee, Dave Pearson, must have known that something or other would have gone wrong and fate duly obliged when his battery on the link with his touch judges decided to go on the blink.
He is not the Shed's favourite and the incident attracted all sorts of abuse, but he did award us a penalty try later. He is also a fellow Geordie, so he cannot be all bad.
After 40 minutes the game was over. Northampton had done a job, they had bullied effectively and they looked far the better side.
But, as the late and lamented Sid Waddell (another Geordie) might have said: "It will be the greatest comeback since Lazarus." And so it nearly was.
Gloucester were on the ropes and struggling, but the half-time break had an ingredient that the coaches must bottle.
It may have been the rollocking and it may have been the secret ingredient in the cup of tea, whatever it was, it worked and the whole team came out of the traps as if they really meant business.
Now if a team can do this so well, it suggests that they are capable of starting like that.
Gloucester looked like a totally different side, so it was pretty obvious that their collective pride had been dented.
The driving maul became a home weapon, but ours did not attract as many defenders as theirs had done in the first half.
We were also guilty of having too many players off their feet when the tackle ball was contested, which does make life difficult.
It is difficult to give enough credit and praise for the second-half performance – it was stunning and inspiring.
But we still lost, even though there was a long period of 15 against 13.
Gloucester seemed to lack a loud voice to calm things down when there was a big advantage.
When the Saints were down to 13, they deliberately slowed down the game. And why shouldn't they? There is no law that states that you have to sprint to destruction when you can amble to safety.
Last-chance saloon had emerged and there was still a possible way out – but the final possession was turned over and Northampton took a victory that they probably deserved.
But, with a degree of composure near the end, the glorious second-half comeback might just have won the war.