Rugby Union: Gloucester rally after Ashmead's early exit

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The Independent Online
Leicester . . . .22

Gloucester. . . .21

MUCH of the purpose went out of this game as early as the 14th minute when Paul Ashmead, one of Gloucester's flankers, was sent off for stamping on Dean Richards. At least at this stage, with Leicester leading 3-0, the game should have become a foregone conclusion. Few sides can give a fast and fit team like Leicester a man advantage for nearly three-quarters of the game and Leicester should in all honesty have won comfortably.

What transpired in the second half made it anything but a foregone conclusion, however. Gloucester rallied remarkably and scored 16 points after half-time, 13 coming in the last quarter when they had every right to feel tired out and when, you would have thought, Leicester should have run them into the ground. Instead, Leicester, to their shame, could only manage seven. And, to be honest, if one of Tim Smith's penalty kicks had been successful then Gloucester would have won and few could have complained at that.

Before the start of the game Keith Richardson, Gloucester's coach, had stood in the warm sunshine and suggested that his team might pull off a surprise. He knew of what he spoke. Gloucester thrive on adversity and what with all those players leaving and then a hefty list of injuries, they were certainly facing adversity now.

The game had hardly begun before John Hawker, the Gloucester hooker, was warned for trampling on Richard Cockerill, his opposite number. Gloucester's captain, Ian Smith, was called up by the referee, David Matthews, to be present at the warning. Moments later came Ashmead's offence. Once more Smith was summoned and the referee actually sent him off instead of Ashmead before the correct order of things was established.

Ashmead's dismissal prompted Gloucester to score a peach of a try, one that gives a lie to their reputation as a team made up of eight forwards and seven others. At least seven pairs of hands touched the ball before a ruck formed under Leicester's posts. On winning the ball quickly, Gloucester spun it through at least five more pairs, including Derrick Morgan's, before he scored in the corner. Leicester's second try of the half, which gave them a lead of 15-5 at half-time, came when Adel Kardooni darted down the short side, all speed and menace.

And so we came to the second half, which Gloucester won morally if not actually. Leicester did not receive one penalty in the 40 minutes and, coming one week after there were 31 penalties and free-kicks in one half of the Northampton game against Bristol, this suggests that players and referees are still some way apart in their understanding and interpretation of the new laws.

Smith landed three penalties but the score that cheered Gloucester most was a typical scrum-half's try by Marcus Hannaford. It followed a line-out that was won by Dave Sims and, given only a few yards to cover and the hint of a gap through which to dive, Hannaford took it. When Smith kicked the conversion the score had been narrowed to only one point. Frankly, Leicester were lucky to get away with it.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, I Bates, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Roundtree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, D Richards, M Pool, J Wells (capt), N Richardson, S Povoas.

Gloucester: T Smith; J Perrins, D Caskie, S Morris, D Morgan; D Cummins, M Hannaford; P Jones, J Hawker, R Phillips, D Simms, R West, P Ashmead, I Smith (capt), R Fowke (D Kearsey, 57 min).

Referee: D Matthews (Liverpool & District).

Scores: Liley (pen, 12 min, 3-0); Hackney (try, 15 min, 8-0); Morgan (try, 20 min, 8-5); Kardooni/Liley (try/conv, 29 min, 15-5); Smith (pen, 51 min, 15-8); Richardson/Liley (try/conv, 54 min, 22-8); Smith (pen, 65 min, 22-11); Smith (pen, 72 min, 22-14); Hannaford/Smith (try/conv, 77 min, 22-21).