Gloucester fight back to stun Saracens
David Halaifonua's last-minute try completed a remarkable comeback as Gloucester beat Anglo-Welsh Cup holders Saracens 36-32 in a thrilling game at Kingsholm.
Saracens looked certain winners at the interval when they led 25-5 before the hosts scored three tries in the third quarter to set up a nail-biting finish.
Tom Whiteley scored two tries for the visitors while Tom Griffiths and Ben Spencer got one each with Spencer converting one and kicking two penalties. Whiteley added two conversions.
Halaifonua scored two tries for the home side. Joe Mullis, Henry Purdy and Dan Thomas also crossed to add to a penalty try award with Lloyd Evans kicking three conversions.
Despite playing against the keen wind, Saracens began strongly to take a sixth-minute lead when fly-half Whiteley waltzed past a couple of defenders for a solo try.
Whiteley converted before the hosts responded almost immediately. They declined a kickable penalty in favour of a driving line-out and were rewarded when Mullis forced his way over.
Evans missed the conversion before his team bungled the restart and they were penalised for Spencer to kick a penalty.
The first quarter was one-way traffic as Gloucester could not compete with the strength of their opponents in the scrum, the home side lost line-outs which allowed Saracens plenty of possession.
Prop Richard Barrington and No 8 Samuela Vunisa drove powerfully at the heart of the defence and it came as no surprise when the visitors extended their lead when an overlap gave Griffiths an easy run-in.
Spencer missed the conversion but was successful with a second penalty as Saracens built up a healthy 18-5 lead after only 25 minutes.
Spencer continued to have a major influence on the match by scampering through a huge hole in the home defence for Saracens' third try, which he converted, and the match had seemingly been decided by half-time.
With his job believed to be done, Spencer was replaced at the interval by Henry Taylor and this allowed Gloucester to stage a brilliant rally.
Elliott Creed and Mat Protheroe showed some neat attacking touches and it was Protheroe who sent Thomas in for his side's second try.
Gloucester's resurgence continued when Purdy finished off some sustained pressure for a third try with Evans' conversion putting the home side right back in contention.
The remarkable comeback continued when Halaifonua scored the bonus-point try and a further conversion from Evans brought Gloucester to within a point with 20 minutes remaining.
Whiteley ensured Saracens had some breathing space by scoring his second try but Gloucester soon responded when they were awarded a penalty try after the visitors dragged down a driving line-out.
As a result, Saracens' skipper Kelly Brown was yellow-carded but the visitors looked to have hung on until Halaifonua's late effort stunned them.