Rugby Union: Liley slow on the uptake

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Leicester. . .16

Gloucester. . .6

THE traditional devotion of Leicester's supporters was exemplified by the newly married couple who arrived to take their seats straight from the church, the bride still in her wedding dress. They drew an affectionate round of applause but there were times when they must have wondered if they might have been better occupied.

But Leicester finally justified their loyalty, clinching their third successive victory with a powerful second-half display against a Gloucester side who led for more than an hour despite the Tigers' overwhelming superiority.

For much of the game the Tigers promised more than they delivered. The match was refereed by a Frenchman, Nicholas Lasaga, and as if to show him that English clubs can play in the French manner, Leicester attempted an open game.

But for a long time, it failed to bring the desired result, frustrated by a combination of resolute defence and outright gamesmanship from Gloucester, who abused the offside laws in a systematic manner. Mr Lasaga was not slow to spot this, awarding penalties to Leicester with monotonous regularity.

But the Tigers had penalised themselves before the game, by resting their first-choice goal-kicker, Jez Harris. John Liley could not come to terms with the wind and kicked only three out of eight penalty attempts.

Gloucester went ahead, against the run of play, in the seventh minute with a neat drop-goal by Martin Kimber and then held out for the rest of the half against a series of flowing movements.

Mark Mapletoft kicked an easy penalty when Leicester killed the ball in front of their own posts during a rare Gloucester attack. The points were awarded on a majority decision, one touch-judge's flag staying down.

With the wind behind him Leicester's Irish international stand-off Niall Malone reverted to his customary kicking role in the second half but Gloucester still hung on. A quicker full-back than Liley might have made it to the corner after Leicester won a ruck in front of the Gloucester posts and Tony Underwood was stopped only by desperate tackling.

After 50 minutes Liley finally kicked a penalty at his sixth attempt and Leicester were on their way. Martin Johnson scored the game's only try, smashing his way over after a typical Dean Richards surge and Liley belatedly came good with a brace of penalties.

Leicester: J Liley; T Underwood, D Edwards, S Potter, R Underwood; N Malone, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, C Johnson, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back.

Gloucester: M Mapletoft; P Holford, S Morris, B Maslen, T Smith; M Kimber, B Fenley; P Jones, J Hawker, A Deacon (capt), R West, D Sims, P Glanville, C Raymond, I Smith.

Referee: N Lasaga (France).