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Abject Gloucester suffer heaviest-ever defeat in 14-try shellacking by Northampton

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Published Time: 11.05.2024 - 20:40:17 Modified Time: 11.05.2024 - 20:40:17

This defeat was a complete capitulation that damages the league’s integrity at the height of the Premiership play-off race PA/Robbie Stephenson Northampton Saints 90 Gloucester 0Long before the sweet release of the final whistle, Gloucester had exited the realms of embarrassment and humiliation and entered a whole new dimension of shame

This defeat was a complete capitulation that damages the league’s integrity at the height of the Premiership play-off race

: PA/Robbie Stephenson

Northampton Saints 90 Gloucester 0

Long before the sweet release of the final whistle, Gloucester had exited the realms of embarrassment and humiliation and entered a whole new dimension of shame.

With 12 minutes to go, the away team had a penalty to avoid a ‘nilling’ in front of the posts. Fly-half Charlie Atkinson almost inevitably shanked it to howls of laughter around Franklin’s Gardens. A once proud club was reduced to a punchline against a ruthless Northampton Saints who racked up 14 tries to inflict Gloucester’s heaviest-ever defeat and guarantee themselves a home semi-final.

“It is brutal,” George Skivington, the Gloucester director of rugby, said. “I thought there might be a heavy scoreline today but that was extremely painful. Our young lads couldn’t find traction. A few lads showed they are well off the pace in the Premiership.”

At a stroke, the result demolishes many of the Premiership’s arguments for ringfencing. Any Championship side would have offered a better account of themselves here than Gloucester. Quite a few National League teams too. The premise that the Premiership is the most competitive league in the world also feels somewhat hollow now. Every club can have an off day but this was a complete capitulation that damages the league’s integrity at the height of the play-off race.

Skivington’s rationale to prioritise the Challenge Cup final is all well and good but that match is still two weeks away. Why then pick a team of waifs and strays to play the role of lambs to the slaughter? Never mind confidence, there will be careers that will not recover from this type of result, but Skivington remained unapologetic.

“We have got banged-up players and don’t have as big a squad as others to rotate people through,” Skivington said. “I have to manage them to make sure that we have the best team at the end of the season. I have got a pretty rigid plan, even down to taking Lewis (Ludlow) off at half-time, and I stuck to it. I have got a rigid plan and I am going to stick to it no matter what. This is the day that challenges you on that plan when you are living it and breathing it.

“I don’t think there’s anything about integrity. I think anyone in my position who has to manage fit bodies for the rest of the season would make the (same) decisions. No matter what the plan is I am not saying this is fine. That felt like the longest game I have ever been a part of.”

Northampton duly entered the abattoir with cleaver in hand, but long before the end they seemed to become embarrassed by the ease at which they were plundering tries as they set the record for largest Premiership home victory. Their home semi-final is now set for May 31.

“We talked about being relentless and ruthless and I thought we did that,” Phil Dowson, the Northampton director of rugby, said. “I know George pretty well and clearly they have different priorities. It is never nice to be on the end of a 90-0 humping. We all have been on the end of those sort of games and you find out a lot about yourselves.”

If Gloucester’s team selection was a white flag then their performance was even more pitiful. They went behind to George Furbank’s score after 51 seconds from a first-phase try in which not one Gloucester hand was placed on a Northampton player. As dazzling as some of Northampton’s tries were, the pick of the bunch being an effort started and finished by Tom James (watch video below), they barely got out of third gear. 

Have a LOOK at THIS! ????Unbelievable Score from the Saints! TAKE A BOW! ????#GallagherPrem | #NORvGLO pic.twitter/8wjj29p4lX

The ease with which Northampton found overlaps was staggering while their maul and scrum were virtually unopposed. Northampton finished having made 1,124 metres with ball in hand, nearly 10 times Gloucester’s total of 124.

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