Flood unable to take centre stage but the Tigers roar on
Leicester 33 Gloucester 11: Leicester bring Gloucester's winning run to an end despite England back having to change positions
Sunday 21 February 2010
In the unlikely circumstance that the watching England manager, Martin Johnson, was weighing up a change of fly-half for next week's match with Ireland, he did not see Toby Flood present much of a case to take over from Jonny Wilkinson – at least, not the way Flood would have liked it.
The Leicester No 10 admitted it "took the sting out of the match" for him when he had to switch to inside centre after half an hour to accommodate Jeremy Staunton, who replaced the limping Dan Hipkiss. Not that Leicester's forwards would have lost any sleep over such niceties. They were busy putting a rude end to Gloucester's good recent run of five wins in all competitions.
During the initial period when Flood was occupying his favourite position – the one in which some of us would like to see his vivacity and daring given a chance ahead of Wilkinson – he made a break which ended with him isolated and stripped of the ball. It did not escape the attention of Leicester's head coach, Richard Cockerill, who saw his side stretch their lead at the top of the Premiership to five points. "Toby does like to take the line on and sometimes that gets you into trouble," said Cockerill.
That minor affliction aside, Flood converted all his seven shots at goal. And he was prominent with Staunton and Geordan Murphy at full-back in turning the screw on Gloucester in easily the most enjoyable spell of the match, the 10 minutes or so either side of half-time when Leicester scored the first two of their three tries. Otherwise it was about as different as can be imagined from the extraordinary Super 14 result in Johannesburg on Friday night, when the Chiefs defeated the Lions 72-65. Some of one combined with the best of the other would have made a fantastic spectacle.
For there was much to grind the teeth over here. Much as the Test referee Wayne Barnes fussed over the scrum he hardly ever got it set or completed cleanly. Leicester were happy enough with that: Gloucester were twice penalised for walking round and the home side also got away with getting a nudge on ahead of the put-in. "I don't think we performed that badly," said Gloucester's assistant coach, Denis Betts. "But Leicester outperformed us. Their scrum and line-out have worked well for years and they came to the fore."
Betts's boss, Bryan Redpath, has been taking advice from Sir Ian McGeechan who is thought to have operated as an eminence grise for a few weeks until the recent public announcement of his consultancy. Redpath insisted that "Geech" has not watched a single training session. You did not have to do so to appreciate that the Cherry and Whites' effort here suffered from the absence of the injured backs, James Simpson-Daniel and Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu.
Gloucester opened up with two penalty goals by Nicky Robinson for a 6-0 lead and appeared to get the rub of Mr Barnes's early decisions. It didn't last. The penalty count gradually totted up in Leicester's favour, and with three kicks from Flood they were 9-6 up after 25 minutes. Then Robinson, who was much longer on pluck than he was on luck, tried a chip in midfield which ended in a Leicester penalty when it dropped into the arms of his prop Greg Somerville. Leicester kicked for the line-out, mauled and might have had a try for Flood, looping round Anthony Allen, but for a too-sharp pass. Staying in the 22 the try arrived when Jordan Crane held firm at the base and Flood sent Lote Tuqiri through a huge gap with a snappy inside pass.
Flood converted and did so again for a 23-6 advantage after Murphy's try two minutes into the second half. Leicester's scrum half Ben Youngs set up a maul into the Gloucester 22 which spit the visitors' No 8, Gareth Delve, out the back with ripped shorts. Many's the team who have left Welford Road without a full set of intact kit. The ball flashed leftwards and Scott Hamilton sent Murphy in.
Though Gloucester's Jonny May finished a try from a scrum featuring Tim Molenaar's strong run, they were soon squashed for good by Flood's fourth penalty and Youngs's slashing try straight from a scrum on the 22. While Murphy looked forward to joining up with Ireland today with a chance of facing England, for Gloucester the final calumny was Bath leapfrogging them into sixth place in the table.
Leicester Tigers G Murphy; S Hamilton, D Hipkiss (J Staunton, 30), A Allen (A Tuilagi, 71), L Tuqiri; T Flood, B Youngs; M Ayerza, M Davies, M Castrogiovanni (B Stankovich, 71), L Deacon (capt), G Parling, C Newby (B Deacon, 62), J Crane, B Woods.
Gloucester O Morgan; T Voyce (C Sharples, 60), J May, T Molenaar (T Taylor, 71), L Vainikolo; N Robinson, R Lawson (A Williams, 70); N Wood (A Dickinson, 58), O Azam (S Lawson, 51), G Somerville (P Capdevielle, 63), D Attwood, A Brown, L Narraway (A Eustace, 68), G Delve (capt), A Qera (A Hazell, 58).
Referee: W Barnes (London).
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