Vunipola returns but Saracens beaten by Gloucester

Mako Vunipola in action against Gloucester
Mako Vunipola's appearances against Gloucester was his first of 2017
Aviva Premiership
Gloucester (16) 31
Tries: Marshall, Thrush, Hibbard Cons: Burns 2 Pens: Burns 3, Twelvetrees
Saracens (13) 23
Tries: Brits, Fraser Cons: Lozowski2 Pens: Bosch, Lozowski 2

Saracens suffer a second successive Premiership defeat but fit-again prop Mako Vunipola staked a claim to rejoin England as he played 70 minutes of their loss at an inspired Gloucester.

Vunipola, returning after nine weeks out, proved his fitness in a game won by Richard Hibbard's late try.

Scores were locked 23-23, Sarries' Schalk Brits and Will Fraser tries cancelled out Tom Marshall and Jeremy Thrush's efforts.

But Hibbard try ensured victory.

A Billy Twelvetrees seven minutes from the end, had edged Gloucester ahead for the third time in the enthralling top-flight battle before the hosts' third try denied Saracens a losing bonus-point.

Sarries, who lost back-to-back first-team games for the first time since May 2015, missed the chance to close the gap on leaders Wasps at the top.

Things had looked ominous for Gloucester - who have lost just once at home in all competitions since October - when Saracens crossed early on through South Africa hooker Brits after clever play from Richard Wigglesworth.

But David Humphreys' side settled into a bruising game and eventually earned themselves a three-point half-time lead thanks to Marshall's try and Billy Burns' accurate boot.

After the break, lock Thrush collected a loose Saracens pass to extend the hosts' lead with only his second try for the club, before Alex Lozowski's penalty cut the deficit for Sarries.

A gripping game was then interrupted by a worrying injury to Gloucester fly-half Burns, who went down after a try-saving tackle in the corner and received lengthy treatment before being stretchered off with an oxygen mask, with the medical staff taking real care not to move the 22-year-old.

Saracens then drew level when Will Fraser crossed after a driving maul from a line-out and Lozowski converted to make it 23-23, and the visitors looked set for a late comeback.

But then, after Twelvetrees had kicked Gloucester back in front from the tee, David Halaifonua broke quickly and almost crossed in the corner before the match-clinching try finally came from the resulting line-out, as Hibbard's strength saw him over.

Billy Burns leaves field on stretcher
Billy Burns left the field on a stretcher after more than 10 minutes of treatment

Gloucester: Marshall; Sharples, Scott, Twelvetrees, Halaifonua; Burns, Heinz (capt); Hohneck, Hibbard, Ma'afu; Savage, Thrush; Moriarty, Rowan, Morgan.

Replacements: Matu'u, Thomas, Doran-Jones, Galarza, Ludlow, Braley, Hook, Trinder.

Saracens: Taylor; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt (capt), Ellery; Lozowski, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Brits, Figallo, Rhodes, Hamilton, Fraser, Burger, Wray.

Replacements: Saunders, Barrington, Du Plessis, Flanagan, Brown, Spencer, Malins, Gallagher.

Referee: Wayne Barnes.

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