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Northampton secure European place with a win over Gloucester

Published 07/05/2016

Dylan Hartley made his comeback for Northampton
Dylan Hartley made his comeback for Northampton

Northampton Saints sealed a place in next season's European Champions Cup after coming from behind to beat Gloucester 28-20 in the Aviva Premiership at Kingsholm.

And there was good news for England head coach Eddie Jones as his national captain Dylan Hartley returned to action for the first time since being knocked out in the Six Nations Grand Slam decider over France last March.

A try either side of half-time by wing George North added to a sizzling touchdown from centre George Pisi and three penalties and two conversions from fly-half Stephen Myler to secure the win.

Gloucester did not score in the second half, with their points coming via first-half tries by replacement Lloyd Evans and flanker Ross Moriarty plus two penalties and two conversions from fly-half Greig Laidlaw.

Gloucester got off the mark in the first minute when Laidlaw landed the first of his long-range penalties.

And Gloucester could have put Northampton under even more pressure with just four minutes gone when they attacked inside the Saints 22, with a movement across to the left putting England Under-18 wing Elliott Creed three metres from the line but he put his foot in touch just prior to touching down.

But the home side could not maintain the momentum and were down by two points when full-back Harry Mallinder produced a magical run from his own 10-metre line.

The son of Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder romped past home lock Jeremy Thrush and Creed on the right to get into the home 22 before passing inside to Ken Pisi who then fed his brother for the try.

But, when ex-England back row Tom Wood was caught offside at a ruck, Laidlaw put Gloucester back in front with his second penalty from over forty metres.

Northampton, however, gained a man advantage when Gloucester lock Tom Savage was sent to the sin-bin after a no arms tackle that saw Saints scrum-half Lee Dickson smashed to the floor and requiring treatment.

Myler booted the penalty that resulted from Savage's indiscretion from 28 metres but, rather than Saints taking advantage further, Gloucester rallied.

Replacement Evans, who played for England in the Junior World Championship last season and came on after 18 minutes for full-back Tom Marshall, finished off a great move inside the Saints 22 when he was put in by centre Billy Twelvetrees and bundled past England star Luther Burrell to the line.

Laidlaw converted and also added the extras to a bursting touchdown from Moriarty two minutes from the break.

However, from 20-8 down, Northampton rallied to 28-20 ahead by 55 minutes.

First, a gap on the right in the home defence allowed Mallinder to set up North and, after the interval, the Welsh star finished off a break by England back row Tom Wood for his second try of the game, Myler converting both.

Myler also added six more points via two long-range penalties as the Saints now put the Cherry and Whites under the cosh.

Hartley came on for hooker Mikey Haywood with 17 minutes left and made his presence felt as Northampton desperately defended on their line in the last 10 minutes but they saw it out to finish fifth in the table to take their European place.

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