Atkinson hat-trick helps Gloucester tighten play-off grip
Mark Atkinson scored a first-half hat-trick as Gloucester boosted their play-off hopes with a 40-31 bonus-point Premiership win at Northampton Saints on Sunday.
The result ends a six-year wait for a victory at Franklin's Gardens for third-place Gloucester, whose only concern will be injuries to star fly-half Danny Cipriani, who signed a new contract in midweek, Tom Hudson and Charlie Sharples.
There were 11 tries in total in an entertaining encounter and Gloucester now have an 11-point gap over fifth-placed Sale Sharks with four games remaining in the regular season.
Atkinson twice responded to scores from Taqele Naiyaravoro and Piers Francis in a barnstorming opening 15 minutes, shaking off a tackle for his first and stepping through a gap after a line-out for his second.
Ruan Ackermann stretched Gloucester's lead after Naiyaravoro went into the sin-bin and Atkinson showed good feet for his third on the stroke of half-time after Cobus Reinach had touched down for Saints.
Second-half tries from Ed Slater and Franco Marais ensured replies from Reece Marshall and Rory Hutchinson were in vain for Northampton, who at least had the consolation of a try-scoring bonus point.