Gloucester fight back to sink Sarries
The Cherry & Whites trailed 3-9 at the break at Kingsholm after the returning Alex Lozowski outscored Billy Twelvetrees by three penalties to one – but in truth, Saracens should have been way out in front.
And Johan Ackermann’s half-time words obviously did the trick for Gloucester as, despite a Schalk Brits score before the hour mark, they put 17 unanswered points on Sarries to surge to an unlikely victory, although Ben Spencer’s last-gasp kick earned them a bonus point.
The first half was characterised by heroic defence from the home side as Saracens threw everything but the kitchen sink at them – enjoying a massive 74 percent of possession.
The Cherry & Whites actually initially led through Twelvetrees’ long-range three-pointer, but Lozowski soon levelled the scores after the hosts were penalised for not releasing.
Sarries’ flyhalf pushed a drop-goal attempt wide after 15 minutes as Gloucester’s defence held firm, but referee Karl Dickson – the former Harlequins scrumhalf making his refereeing debut in Premiership Rugby – was kept busy for the remainder of the half.
He awarded three more kickable penalties the visitors’ way, with Lozowski nailing two and pulling another left of the posts to leave the scores at 9-3 at the break despite Sarries’ dominance.
And they were made to pay after the break by a transformed Gloucester.
The hosts enjoyed their best period of the match for the ten minutes after half-time, Twelvetrees eventually rewarding them with three precious points from the tee after Calum Clark was pinged for not rolling away.
They briefly switched off, however, allowing Brits to get involved in three phases in a powerful Saracens move that the South African finished off himself, before shocking the European champions with 17 unanswered points.
First Thorley produced a brilliant finish to an exceptional team try, gathering Billy Burns’ chip perfectly before holding off the defenders to score in the corner.
And then Hudson squeezed over underneath the posts as the galvanised Cherry & Whites used all their momentum to send Kingsholm into raptures heading into the final ten minutes – Twelvetrees continuing to impress from the tee to notch both conversions.
Lozowski saw a penalty drift wide with six minutes remaining, but as Saracens continued their late onslaught Ben Spencer’s last-minute kick ensured Mark McCall’s charges returned to north London with at least a losing bonus point.
Tries: Thorley, Hudson
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Pens: Twelvetrees 3
Pens: Lozowski 3, Spencer
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Ed Slater, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Purdy
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Calum Clark, 6 George Kruis, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Nathan Earle
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Peter Allan, Jack Makepeace
TMO: David Rose