Match Report: Gloucester v Saracens

Reigning champions Saracens suffered their second successive defeat for the first time since May 2015.

A late try from Gloucester hooker Richard Hibbard sealed the tie to boost their chances of a top six finish as well as denying Saracens a losing bonus point.

But both teams started the game brightly playing with ball in hand, however, it was the boot of Billy Burns that broke the deadlock early on for the home side to establish a 3-0 lead.

Sarries restarted with the intent and purpose we’ve been so used to seeing this season and after a number of phases close to the Gloucester line, hooker Schalk Brits crossed the whitewash from close range.

The Cherry and Whites responded with their own urgency, putting the visitors under pressure. A rare mistake from Sarries flanker Schalk Burger gave the home side the attacking platform that eventually saw Tom Marshall score his side’s first try of the game.

A long-range Marcello Bosch penalty levelled the scores midway through the first half before a penalty kick apiece from Alex Lozowski and in-form Billy Burns tied the scores at 13-13.

But it was the home team that were able to establish a slender lead going into the break after a dubious Brad Barritt tackle gave Burns another opportunity at goal to edge the score to 16-13.

There were shades of last week’s performance against Worcester for Saracens in the opening stages of the second half. A number of unforced errors put the visitors under the cosh which handed Gloucester the impetus to attack.

A poorly executed chip from Bosch in the Sarries 22 handed possession straight back to Gloucester before an unseen knock on by scrum half Will Heinz gave Gloucester second row Jeremy an easy run to the line for his side’s second try.   

A Burns conversion increased the lead to 10 points for the Cherry and Whites and the score line suddenly instilled some life into Sarries’ play.

A Lozowski penalty reduced the arrears somewhat, but constant infringing by Gloucester was punished by referee Wayne Barnes with Paul Doran Jones sent to the bin. Sarries exploited the man advantage from the resulting penalty. The rolling maul from the lineout saw back row Will Fraser emerge from the line.

Lozowski duly converted to tie the scores once again to 23-23. Further errors from Saracens allowed Gloucester fly half to take a three-point lead in to the final five minutes. But Gloucester weren’t done and continued to pile the pressure on the champions.

The Cherry and Whites played the visitors at their own game and turned to the rolling maul to get them over the line with Hibbard crossing to win the game. Despite missing the conversion, the home side take all four points and move above Newcastle Falcons to eighth place while Saracens remain in second with both Wasps and Exeter still to play this weekend.

Sarries director of rugby won’t be worrying just yet, but two losses on the bounce for the reigning champions could prove crucial when play-off fixtures are announced.

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