Owen Farrell kicks Saracens into top spot as late penalty sinks Gloucester
Owen Farrell's penalty, four minutes from time sent Saracens to the top of the Aviva Premiership table in a hard fought game at Kingsholm.
There was little between the teams and a draw would have been a fairer result, but Saracens did score the only try of the game through Mike Ellery as they beat Gloucester 17-15. Farrell kicked three penalties and Charlie Hodgson one.
Gloucester had the more creative runners in Charlie Sharples and Jonny May, but overdid the kicking so the hosts had to rely on five penalties from Billy Twelvetrees for their points.
Gloucester made five changes from last week's win over Newcastle. James Hook, Ben Morgan and May all returned from World Cup duty, with Sione Kalamafoni switching to lock from the back row.
Farrell returned for Saracens with Mako Vunipola and George Kruis both included in the starting line-up after being on the bench for last week's thrashing of Sale. Hooker Jamie George was picked as captain with regular skipper, Alistair Hargreaves, and scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth both on the bench.
Saracens conceded an early penalty for a high tackle by Farrell on May, but Twelvetrees was well off target with his shot at the posts.
After only seven minutes, the visitors suffered an early blow when Neil de Kock limped off to be replaced by Wigglesworth.
In a dour opening 15 minutes both sides relied on the boot to gain territory, but with the first attacking movement of the game, Saracens opened the scoring.
From a line-out on the home 22, Nick Tompkins, a late replacement for the injured Tim Streather, made the initial break. The movement was carried on by Farrell before the ball was sent wide for Ellery to score on the overlap.
Hodgson missed the touchline conversion but minutes later was successful with a penalty to give Saracens an 8-0 lead after 21 minutes.
Sarries then lost South African flanker Michael Rhodes, with an injury sustained in a tackle on Matt Kvesic, before Twelvetrees put Gloucester on the scoreboard with a penalty.
Buoyed by this score, Gloucester upped their game to reduce the arrears when Twelvetrees knocked over his second penalty, but one from Farrell nullified this to give the visitors an 11-6 interval lead.
The home side began the second half strongly with bursts from Hook and Sharples taking them into the opposition 22 but the concession of simple penalties prevented them from taking advantage.
When Ellery failed to deal with an up and under from Will Heinz, Gloucester were presented with their best chance to score a try. However they lacked the clinical finish so only secured another three points when Twelvetrees kicked his third penalty, the only score of the third quarter.
When Farrell was penalised for a deliberate off-side to receive a stern warning from the referee, Twelvetrees stepped up to put Gloucester in front for the first time. Farrell soon had a chance to atone for his ill-discipline, but failed with a 40-metre penalty attempt.
With 12 minutes remaining, Gloucester infringed at a line-out and this time, Farrell succeeded with a more difficult kick.
As the tension built, replacement prop, Rhys Gill, conceded a penalty for collapsing allowing Twelvetrees to smash over his fifth penalty from the half-way line but Farrell's late effort saw Sarries home.