Tigers maintain resurgence at Kingsholm
November 26, 2011
Tigers' resurgence continues at Kingsholm
Leicester gave their Aviva Premiership campaign much-needed impetus by condemning Gloucester to a third successive home defeat in all competitions with a 19-14 triumph at Kingsholm on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers, in an unfamiliar 11th place before kick-off, prevailed through second-half tries by England fly-half Toby Flood and Samoan wing Alesana Tuilagi. Flood added three penalties, with his England half-back partner Ben Youngs relieved that a glaring blunder - a reckless pass intercepted by captain Luke Narraway that produced Gloucester's solitary touchdown - did not cost Leicester dear.
Fly-half Freddie Burns booted three penalties during a tight and tense encounter, but Gloucester again finished second best on home soil following losses to Saracens and Harlequins. And after losing both their opening Heineken Cup pool games, Gloucester know must quickly put things back on track, starting with a tricky trip to Newcastle in the Premiership next Friday night. Gloucester's latest setback means that for the first time in six years they have suffered three home defeats on the bounce.
Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath made two changes from the side beaten at home by Heineken Cup opponents Quins last weekend, recalling full-back Olly Morgan and No.8 Narraway, while Leicester included Youngs and Dan Cole among their replacements.
Both of Tigers' league wins this season had been away from Welford Road - against Newcastle and Sale - but they were put under early pressure when Burns made a sniping run. England captaincy candidate Tom Croft halted the danger when he pulled off a stunning tackle from behind, before Flood put Leicester ahead through an angled 13th-minute penalty.
Burns took only five minutes to land an equalising strike, and Gloucester established a degree of territorial control as the back trio of Narraway, Alasdair Strokosch and Akapusi Qera regularly made headway.
But Gloucester did not help themselves through a number of handling errors - wing Lesley Vainikolo was the chief culprit - with a second successful Burns penalty appearing to be scant reward for sustained pressure. And after playing the opening 40 minutes with a strong breeze at their backs, Leicester were the happier team at the break despite trailing by three points.
Alesana Tuilagi, who scored Leicester's crucial second try at Kingsholm, storms forward © Getty Images
Youngs then appeared for his first Premiership outing of the season, taking over from Sam Harrison, with Tigers rugby director Richard Cockerill clearly hoping he could inject snap and verve to a team needing an increased tempo.
Leicester thought they had scored only four minutes into the period, but television match official David Matthews contentiously ruled otherwise. Tigers attacked from a short-range scrum, allowing Flood to chip ahead towards Gloucester's posts, and it looked as though he managed a fingertip touchdown before the ball squirted clear. Matthews deliberated long and hard over the replays before ruling in Gloucester's favour, and although Flood then kicked a second penalty, Leicester could feel slightly hard done by.
They remained the most potent attacking force on view, though, and Tuilagi was just inches away from grasping Flood's cross-kick with Gloucester's line beckoning. But it proved only a temporary reprieve as Leicester put together a slick attack that ended with Flood darting over to make amends for his narrow failure 15 minutes earlier.
Leicester deserved to be ahead, but it lasted barely two minutes as Gloucester prospered when Youngs attempted an ill-judged pass, Narraway caught it and then finished in style.
The game had moved up a gear, and Leicester responded to that setback in blistering fashion, courtesy of Tuilagi's opportunism. The Samoan international charged down an attempted clearance by England hopeful Charlie Sharples, then reacted quickest to gather possession and sprint clear for his 11th try in 11 appearances against Gloucester. Flood could not convert, but Leicester were back in front, the lead having changed hands three times during a hectic six-minute spell.
Redpath rang the changes in an attempt to rescue the game, yet Leicester called on all their expertise and tactical nous as they successfully closed the game out, underpinned by Flood's third penalty after Narraway infringed.
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