A late try by hooker Richie Hibbard on Friday secured Gloucester a deserved 31-23 victory over English rugby union Premiership champions Saracens, who went down to a second successive defeat for the first time since May 2015.
Former Wales international Hibbard’s try added to those of man-of-the-match Tom Marshall and his New Zealand compatriot Jeremy Thrush.
European champions Saracens conceded three tries for the first time this season and failed to secure a bonus point of any sort for the first time in 11 months.
The defeat left Saracens five points adrift of leaders Wasps, who can extend their advantage if they take something from their trip to in-form Sale today.
The only downside for Gloucester was a head injury to flyhalf Billy Burns — who scored 13 points — midway through the second half, which required several minutes of attention and resulted in him being stretchered off.
For watching England coach Eddie Jones there was positive news in that Saracens prop Mako Vunipola returned to action for the first time in almost four months after a knee injury.
He played for 70 minutes, which should end with him being in England’s squad for the Six Nations match against Italy on Sunday next week.
“It was a very different defeat to last week’s performance [when Saracens lost to Worcester on Feb. 11] and I don’t think that you can fault the effort,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BT Sport.
For Marshall there was pleasure in restoring pride after an awful 34-9 thrashing by Leicester.
“It was a complete 360. Last week we were absolutely awful, to be fair, and this week we came to Kingsholm and put our pride on the line,” he told BT Sport.
Burns put the hosts ahead after six minutes with a penalty, but the visitors stormed back through hooker Schalk Brits touching down for his 22nd Premiership try.
Alex Lozowski converted and Marcelo Bosch added a penalty soon afterward from the halfway line to take a 10-3 lead.
However, Gloucester drew level after a sustained period of pressure saw Marshall go over for his first try for the club — Burns converted for 10-10.
Lozowski and Burns exchanged penalties before the latter slotted one over on the stroke of halftime to give the hosts a 16-13 lead.
The hosts increased their lead 10 minutes into the second half after yet more pressure by the Cherry and Whites saw former All Blacks lock Thrush go over — although it should probably not have stood, as there was a knock on by scrumhalf Willi Heinz unseen by referee Wayne Barnes — and Burns convert for 23-13.
A desperate spell for Gloucester coinciding with Burns’ injury — and a yellow card for Paul Doran Jones — saw Saracens draw level at 23-23.
However, the hosts regained the lead with six minutes remaining, with former England center Billy Twelvetrees popping over a penalty and the crowd were on their feet minutes later as 33-year-old Hibbard went over.
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