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Rees-Zammit takes seconds to send message to Wales in fightback win

By PA
Louis Rees-Zammit (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

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Louis Rees-Zammit inspired a stunning Gloucester fightback as they kept themselves firmly in the Gallagher Premiership play-off mix by beating Northampton 35-30 at Kingsholm.

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The Wales wing had been on for barely a minute as a second-half substitute when he conjured a magical solo try that underpinned Gloucester’s fightback from 27-14 adrift.

Gloucester also claimed a penalty try, and there were touchdowns for prop Harry Elrington, centre Tom Seabrook and lock Santiago Socino, with fly-half Adam Hastings kicking four conversions.

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Le French Rugby Podcast – Episode 19
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Le French Rugby Podcast – Episode 19

It was Northampton’s fourth successive league defeat – their worst sequence since December 2020.

Saints’ first Premiership win since they toppled Worcester five weeks ago looked to be secured by tries from centres Matt Proctor and Fraser Dingwall, plus a brilliant second-half touchdown by wing Tom Collins.

Wales captain Dan Biggar warmed up for next Friday’s Guinness Six Nations appointment with title favourites France by converting all three touchdowns among a 15-point haul.

But Gloucester were not to be denied, leaving Saints shell-shocked as they continued their impressive resurgence under head coach George Skivington.

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Rees-Zammit, who missed out on Wales selection for last weekend’s Six Nations clash against England, was again among Gloucester’s replacements, while number eight Ruan Ackermann captained a team that included starts for scrum-half Ben Meehan and hooker Santiago Socino.

Biggar featured among three Saints changes, with Scotland international centre Rory Hutchinson lining up at full-back and Karl Wilkins called into the back-row.

The visitors made a terrible start, falling behind after just three minutes, and they only had themselves to blame.

Hooker Sam Matavesi chose to throw long at a lineout just five metres from Northampton’s line, but it only found Elrington, who accepted the gift and crashed over for a try that Hastings converted.

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Biggar missed a chance to cut Saints’ deficit when he drifted an eighth-minute penalty attempt wide, but Northampton dominated in terms of territory and he made amends midway through the first half through a successful 30-metre strike.

Northampton had the bit between their teeth and relentless pressure was rewarded through their opening try 13 minutes before half-time.

Saints’ forwards made repeated attempts to buckle Gloucester’s defensive resistance before they spun possession wide and Proctor scored, with Biggar’s conversion putting Northampton three points ahead.

A second Biggar penalty put daylight between the teams before Northampton claimed a second try when scrum-half Alex Mitchell’s short pass found skipper Dingwall, who finished off.

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Biggar’s conversion opened up a healthy 20-7 advantage, but Saints were undone just two minutes later as Seabrook claimed an opportunist try that Hastings converted to put Gloucester back in contention.

But Northampton lit up the third quarter with a clear contender for Premiership try of the season.

There appeared to be nothing on when wing Courtnall Skosan threw out a long pass from deep inside his own 22, yet Saints attacked with menace through Hutchinson and Biggar before Hutchinson sent Collins sprinting clear as he completed a thrilling 90-metre move.

Biggar’s conversion opened up a 13-point gap, and just when Gloucester needed some inspiration, it arrived in the form of Rees-Zammit.

His first touch of the ball saw him shred Northampton’s defence on a mesmeric solo run, and his try – converted by Hastings – saw Gloucester reduce their arrears to 27-21 with 17 minutes left.

Gloucester’s forwards then took up the challenge, and when they drove a lineout relentlessly towards Northampton’s line, referee Ian Tempest awarded them a penalty try.

Tempest also yellow-carded Saints prop Emmanuel Iyogun for collapsing the maul as Gloucester went ahead, while also enjoying a temporary one-man advantage.

A long-range Biggar penalty edged Saints back in front, but Gloucester were not finished and they claimed a winning try six minutes from time when Socino crossed.

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