In a blur of joyously glorious skill and laugh-out-loud defensive howlers this was the highest-scoring draw in First Division history, and the lessons learned will be profound. Leicester, surely, will attack Gloucester's forwards much harder if the sides meet again in the end-of-season play-offs. For their part, the Cherry-and-Whites have run into injury problems at the wrong time – the latest was a dislocated shoulder for the full-back Olly Morgan – but they have the building blocks of a team for next season and beyond.
Alesana Tuilagi scored a rumbustious hat-trick for Leicester in the first 16 minutes of the second half, and overall there were five converted tries to each side. Indeed, the only predictable aspect was the grumbling about referees from the English champions and Premiership leaders. It began in the programme where the previous weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final exit to Leinster – refereed by Nigel Owens of Wales – led Leicester's executive director (and European Rugby Cup board member) Peter Wheeler to demand that if a Premiership side play a Magners League side, the referee should come from France.
So here we had an Irish referee, George Clancy, who rewarded a Leicester scrum going forward with a couple of quick penalties in the first half, and allowed umpteen turnovers to both teams after the tackle. Leicester's director of rugby Richard Cockerill screamed "in the side" often during the match and said afterwards: "The breakdown and the way it was refereed was a complete mess. I don't know what law-book he's playing from but it's not the one we got given at the start of the season."
Freddie Burns converted Gloucester's equalising try in the last minute by Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu – if there is a smoother runner about, he must be on castors – to earn them one extra point and an unquantifiable lift in confidence. They will complete an eight-day mini-series against fellow members of the top four when they host fourth-placed Northampton tomorrow and go to Saracens on Sunday, and they may yet be back at Leicester in the semi-finals. "When I was at Leicester I thought I knew what heart and spirit was about," said Brett Deacon, the former Tiger, who captained Gloucester with five top players missing. "To see that in a Gloucester team here was unbelievable."
Scorers: Leicester: Tries Hamilton, A Tuilagi 3, Twelvetrees; Conversions Flood 5; Penalties Flood 2. Gloucester: Tries Morgan, Fuimaono-Sapolu 2, Hazell, Molenaar; Conversions Burns 5; Penalties Burns 2.
Leicester: S Hamilton; H Agulla (M Smith, 54), M Tuilagi, B Twelvetrees, A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs; B Stankovich (D Cole, 54), R Hawkins (G Chuter, 57), M Castrogiovanni, S Mafi (J Crane, 63; J Staunton, 69), G Skivington, T Croft (capt), B Woods (C Newby, 57), T Waldrom.
Gloucester: O Morgan (T Taylor, 9); J May, H Trinder (T Molenaar, 58), E Fuimaono-Sapolu, T Voyce; F Burns, D Lewis (R Lawson, 67); A Dickinson (N Wood, 58), S Lawson (O Azam, 58), R Harden (P Doran-Jones, 58), W James, D Attwood (A Brown, 62), M Cox, A Hazell (A Strokosch, 64), B Deacon (capt).
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).Reuse content