Gloucester were much the better team in the opening quarter and led 18-9 at the interval as Saints' carelessness conceded a crucial try just before the break.
However it was a different story in the second half as the Northampton pack starved the home side of the ball and in the end were unlucky losers.
Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath said "At 18-9 we should have been more comfortable. Our forwards struggled in the second half and our backs should have given them more protection."
Jonny May and Burns shone in attack in the first half as Gloucester's tempo caused the Saints no end of problems but their coach was critical of his young stars.
Redpath added: "Jonny was poor today in his own half. He has to get the kicking balance right and get us into the correct positions where we can attack. This also applies to Freddie as he missed a couple of crucial touch finders from penalty kicks, which takes the pressure off."
Saints coach Jim Mallinder blamed his side's defeat on their slow start.
He said: "We were very poor in the first half, especially with our defensive work and we gave away too many penalties. We had fought back well but we conceded a bad try just before half-time and left ourselves with too much to do."
Saints' fly-half Ryan Lamb, formerly of Gloucester, missed two easy penalties which would have given his side victory but Mallinder refused to blame him for the defeat.
"I was more concerned with the points that we gave away," he said.
"There were too many silly penalties and we needed to be more accurate."
England lock Courtney Lawes, returning after a six-week injury break, completed a full 80 minutes and was unlucky not to be a try scorer losing the ball in the process of touching down.
Mallinder said "Courtney was tired but he's fine. He will be reporting to England next week but hopefully they will release him back to us on Wednesday so that he can play for us against Sale next Saturday as he needs the game time."
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