Louis Rees-Zammit scored a first Gloucester hat-trick but Northampton Saints ran out 33-26 winners in a seven-try thriller that sees them return to the top of the Premiership table.
In a match of high quality at Franklin’s Gardens, it was fledging Welsh winger Rees-Zammit – who has five tries over his past two matches – who touched down first, racing free after picking up Mark Atkinson’s grubber kick.
Saints took control through scores from Mike Haywood and Cobus Reinach and the respective boots of Dan Biggar and Piers Francis, before Chris Harris’s converted try reduced the arrears.
Reinach’s second, after a loose pass from Danny Cipriani, left Gloucester with an uphill task but Freddie Clarke released Rees-Zammit for his second of the match.
A yellow card for Josh Hohneck for a high tackle left Gloucester a man light, during which time Francis added three points from the tee and, although Rees-Zammit completed his treble when Gloucester worked the ball wide, he nailed another penalty to leave Saints out of sight.
Back to the top of the @premrugby tree, for tonight at least.
What a game of rugby that was at the Gardens!
— Northampton Saints (@SaintsRugby) December 28, 2019
Struggling Leicester Tigers dramatically fought back from a 14-point deficit to earn a thrilling 30-30 draw with Harlequins at Twickenham.
Quins were in complete command against a Leicester side with just a solitary win to their name this season, with tries from Paul Lasike, Marcus Smith and Chris Robshaw helping the hosts to a 27-13 lead.
But Jordan Taufua started the comeback on the hour, before Smith and Leicester fly-half George Ford exchanged penalties.
Will Collier’s yellow then left Quins at a temporary numerical disadvantage, which Leicester made the most of when Telusa Veainu latched onto a kick from Ford, who added the extras to tie up the game.
Sale Sharks made it back-to-back wins to move seventh in the table as Rhys Priestland kicked 11 points in a 16-14 beating of Bath, for whom Akker van Der Merwe and Byron McGuigan went over in quickfire scores after the break.
Worcester Warriors, hammered 36-3 by Gloucester last time out, bounced back with a 20-6 beating of London Irish – the visitors having Motu Matu’u sent off seven minutes before the break, shortly after Allan Dell was also sin-binned for the away team.
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