If Leicester were prone to a footballing refrain it would doubtless be "can we play here every week?" For the third time at Kingsholm in 2008 the Tigers came, clawed and conquered. Unforgettably in the play-off semi-final in May it was a late dropped goal from Andy Goode, since departed to France, which settled it by a point. On this occasion, Leicester had marginally more to spare after tries by Geordan Murphy and Toby Flood in the last 10 minutes.
Flood, the summer recruit from Newcastle, was in Goode's old fly-half role while another recent signing, Derick Hougaard, was missing injured. Heyneke Meyer, Leicester's new South African director of rugby having his first taste of Premiership tribalism after succeeding Marcelo Loffreda, might have danced a jig of joy if he had not been on crutches nursing a damaged Achilles.
Meyer's Gloucester counterpart, Dean Ryan, was seething at the way his table-toppers of last season – who also lost to Leicester here in the Premiership in February – keep falling short in the big matches. "We know why we lost," Ryan said. "We're a good side but to be a great side you generally have to be dragged across the line by a dominant individual or group of individuals. We'll find out whether we have the personalities to take this club forward or whether we need other people."
Ryan named no names but Ryan Lamb, the fly-half, missed three first-half goal kicks and was hauled off after 61 minutes. Several decent field positions were wasted when forwards attacked in isolation, most cringingly when Carlos Nieto got free from a ruck in the 22 with 75 minutes gone and Leicester leading at 13-8, and conspired with Will James and Lesley Vainikolo to muck it up.
Flood was no more accurate than Lamb for Leicester, missing four penalties, but his side – without the injured Martin Corry and Aaron Mauger – were resolute in defence and always threatening when Gloucester put in to the scrum.
Every one knows their place in the Kingsholm hierarchy: the high rollers in the grandstand rarely join in with the Shed's braying "eeyore" at a sliced kick by a visiting player. Terrace dwellers and jewellery rattlers were united in groans, however, when Leicester twice splintered Gloucester on their scrum put-in in the first quarter. In turn, Leicester – who led 6-0 with two Flood penalties – lost their open-side Ben Herring to the sin-bin after 24 minutes and though Lamb missed the penalty Gloucester soon had a try.
Olly Morgan chased and brilliantly caught a high kick from Lamb, but the supporting Andy Titterrell was expertly held up by Jordan Crane and Marcos Ayerza. The resulting Gloucester scrum was not the steadiest but Rory Lawson ducked and dived to the right, the ball flashed via James Simpson-Daniel to Morgan who ghosted past Alesana Tuilagi and held off the covering corner-flagging Flood.
Gloucester finished the first half with Titterrell popped out of the scrum like a champagne cork and, two minutes after the resumption, Ryan sent on Olivier Azam. A penalty immediately afterwards was converted from 40 metres by Lamb with a confident oomph much removed from his previous efforts, and Gloucester led 8-6.
When the referee, Dave Pearson, let play go more than a single phase, Leicester's pick-and-drive was effective across the gainline. But Pearson very rarely let anything go, and both sides were pinged often at the breakdown. Morgan was impressive but a great Gloucester chance went west after 68 minutes when Luke Narraway, the No 8, slipped over out wide. "It was game where you needed to take your opportunities," said Meyer.
Leicester did that with a try on 70 minutes when a couple of offloads sent Crane on a run and, although replacement scrum-half Julien Dupuy stumbled, Flood's pass sent Murphy over. After Nieto and James's mix-up, and a Mike Tindall break which ended with the ball lost through Morgan's legs, Flood intercepted a pass from Simpson-Daniel to run in Leicester's second try and bring back the Goode times.
Gloucester: Try Morgan; Penalty Lamb. Leicester: Tries Murphy, Flood; Conversions Dupuy, Flood; Penalties: Flood 2.
Gloucester: O Morgan; J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall (capt), A Allen (M Watkins, 75), L Vainikolo; R Lamb (W Walker, 61), R Lawson (G Cooper, 67); N Wood (D Young, 59), A Titterrell, C Nieto, W James, M Bortolami, P Buxton, A Strokosch, L Narraway.
Leicester Tigers: G Murphy; T Varndell, M Smith, D Hipkiss, A Tuilagi (T Youngs, h-t); T Flood, H Ellis (J Dupuy, 59); M Ayerza, G Chuter (B Kayser, 50), J White, R Blaze, B Kay (capt, M Wentzel, 61), T Croft, B Herring (B Woods, 64), J Crane.
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).Reuse content