'Castle Grim' falls as Leicester ride the loss of Corry

Gloucester 13 - Leicester 28
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First, the bad news. Martin Corry, the England No 8 and a significant contributor to his country's victory over South Africa at Twickenham in November, dislocated his right elbow after 23 minutes of last night's supremely physical Premiership match at Kingsholm - lovingly known as Castle Grim, a description with which Corry will heartily agree - and will miss the Six Nations Championship match with Wales in Cardiff on 5 February. And now, the really bad news. The league is done and dusted, four months early.

First, the bad news. Martin Corry, the England No 8 and a significant contributor to his country's victory over South Africa at Twickenham in November, dislocated his right elbow after 23 minutes of last night's supremely physical Premiership match at Kingsholm - lovingly known as Castle Grim, a description with which Corry will heartily agree - and will miss the Six Nations Championship match with Wales in Cardiff on 5 February. And now, the really bad news. The league is done and dusted, four months early.

Leicester were too good for Gloucester - miles too good - and that makes them some side, for the Cherry and Whites are nobody's fools in this dark and dangerous neck of the union woods. The Midlanders gave their hosts a two-try start and still battered them, thanks to the power of their scrummaging, the boundless energy of their loose forwards and the mix of swaggering confidence and venomous commitment currently seeping from every corpuscle.

Of course, the supporters of the play-off system, under which a team can win the league by as much as they like and still not win the title, will point to the current situation in a told-you-so kind of way, arguing that it cannot be good for the sport to have everything wrapped up with some 40 per cent of the season still to be completed. To which the only response is of the two-fingered variety. If Leicester are 20 points better than everyone else come the middle of May, it will be an entirely accurate reflection of their superiority and should be properly rewarded.

Those clean-living and even-handed inhabitants of the Kingsholm Shed were so pumped up for the visit of the Tigers, whom they place only slightly above Bath and Bristol on the evolutionary ladder, that they treated every member of the visiting party to both verbal barrels. To Martin Johnson, that pantomime villain extraordinaire, it was water off a duck's back; to the Leicester medics, who consider themselves beyond reproach on account of their collective good works, it came as a rude awakening. Mind you, one travelling physio rather asked for it when he inadvertently obstructed a dangerous attack from Henry Paul while making a bee-line for the stricken George Chuter. "Same old Leicester, always cheating," came the mass serenade.

It was that sort of night: passionate, rumbustious, heartfelt. The whole of Gloucester had been talking about the fixture for weeks, and every last ticket had been purchased within days of the market being declared open. For the local boys - the likes of Adam Eustace and Andy Hazell - it was deeply personal, and their stoking of the fires dragged the imported outsiders, the Nathan Maugers and Seti Kiole, along with them. For 13 glorious minutes at the start of the contest, this overwhelming spirit looked like being decisive.

Geordan Murphy, a hot tip as the British and Irish Lions' full-back in New Zealand this summer but unusually shambolic during the 50-odd minutes he spent on the field here, had an early kick charged down by Kiole and left his side under a small mountain of unwanted pressure. Mefin Davies hit Andy Gomarsall with an inventive long throw at the line-out - as much a strength for Gloucester as their scrum was a weakness - and Hazell led the forward rush into the Leicester 22, allowing Paul to slide a kick towards the line. Mauger collected it soundly and wrenched himself out of a tackle to complete the try on four minutes.

Nine minutes later, Gloucester found themselves 10 points to the good. Terry Fanolua led the way this time, stepping on the gas down the right-hand touchline and creating an opening for Eustace to twist over at the flag. If Leicester had allowed themselves to be consumed by blind panic, who could have blamed them? Kingsholm had never been the happiest of destinations for them - 92 visits, 67 defeats - and with the local hordes in full cry, things looked as bleak as could be.

But they did not panic. Within three minutes of Eustace's try, they put themselves on the board with a try of such splendour that Gloucester probably knew then and there that their lead was nothing less than a temporary aberration. Jon Goodridge was churned out of a ruck by Johnson and company following a well-placed high kick from Andy Goode, Ollie Smith stole a yard on Kiole down the right and Murphy materialised in support to slip a scoring pass to Leon Lloyd.

Goode then dictated matters with the boot, earning Leicester acres of territory out of hand and picking up handy points from the tee. Lloyd put Smith in at the right flag after 40 minutes, Goode dropped a goal in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time, and when the outside-half poked a kick towards the Gloucester sticks shortly after the interval, Daryl Gibson's reactions were sharp enough to touch down the ball at the foot of the post. Job done.

It is just possible that Leicester will now throw everything at the Heineken Cup and leave the Premiership to take care of itself, thereby dropping a couple of matches. Do not bet a penny on it, though. The Tigers are climbing the high peaks once again, and show few signs of making an early return to the lowlands.

Gloucester: Tries Mauger, Eustace; Penalty Paul. Leicester: Tries Lloyd, Smith, Gibson; Conversions Goode 2; Penalties Goode 2; Drop goal Goode.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey (J Bailey, 69), N Mauger, T Fanolua, S Kiole; H Paul, A Gomarsall; C Bezuidenhout (T Sigley, 51), M Davies, P Vickery, A Eustace (P Buxton, 67), A Brown, J Boer (capt), A Balding (J Forrester, 51), A Hazell.

Leicester: G Murphy (S Vesty, 58); O Smith, L Lloyd, D Gibson, T Varndell; A Goode (M Cornwell, 80), H Ellis; D Morris, G Chuter (J Buckland, 31), J White, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, L Moody, M Corry (W Johnson, 23), N Back.

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).

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