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Vainikolo dives in and the Shed erupts with joy

Gloucester 19 Leicester Tigers 12

Gloucester pulled off a dramatic victory over the champions with Lesley Vainikolo's late try. A compelling match looked to be heading for a draw when Nicky Robinson missed a fourth penalty, after the Leicester centre Matt Smith was sent to the sin-bin.

However, Gloucester had a final roll of the dice and though the hooker Olivier Azam looked to have blown an overlap, the flanker Akapusi Qera got the ball out to Vainikolo for the giant wing to barge over in the corner. Robinson converted and Gloucester maintained their unbeaten home league record that now stretches back for more than a year. They are now third in the Aviva Premiership table.

Gloucester's coach, Bryan Redpath, said: "We always knew this game was going to be tight and it certainly proved so. We showed Leicester respect but hopefully we have also gained some respect. I'm proud of the lads who battled hard and proved they would not freeze in the tight matches. We had to come back and finish off that game.

"Lesley brought a physical edge to our play, that's why we have someone like him and the reason we brought him on when we did. I'm delighted for him. We will enjoy this win. I'm chuffed to bits. But we can't get too carried away, we have some key games in the league before Christmas and we have to be smart in the way we approach them."

Both teams were without England internationals a a week before the first Autumn Test but Leicester who were affected far more – their attacking thrust looked blunt without Ben Youngs and Toby Flood. They took a losing bonus point but that was scant consolation to their director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, who was clearly unhappy with the referee, Wayne Barnes.

He said: "There were some bizarre decisions for both sides, especially at the scrums where the boys were left wondering what they had done. But we also have to look at ourselves because we are a better team than that. Perhaps we got what we deserved after being so flippant with the ball, especially in our own half. I'm frustrated and disappointed at some of the decisions we took on the field. We had opportunities to win. But we kept coughing up the ball, giving them more and more opportunities and eventually they took one."

It was a former Gloucesterplayer, the Leicester centre Anthony Allen, who came closest to breaking a way through in the first half, only to knock on as Jonny May came up with a timely tackle.

Gloucester edged the first half 9-6 and while it may have been nip-and-tuck stuff, with few openings, that only heightened the entertainment that was served up.

Gloucester lost the back-rower Brett Deacon to a leg injury after only 16 minutes and Robinson suffered a dose of the collywobbles in front of goal, being way off with successive penalties. James Simpson-Daniel failed to gather Henry Trinder's delightful kick with the Leicester line open.

Robinson responded in determined fashion, dusting himself down after earning a penalty with a brave tackle on Alesana Tuilagi and kicking Gloucester ahead from close to the halfway line.

Gloucester were giving Leicester a dose of their own medicine in the close exchanges, particularly in the scrum, and their sheer tenacity was rattling the champions.

The Tigers pack fluffed a line-out just five yards from the Gloucester line; the flanker Craig Newby gave away a needless penalty after charging down Robinson's clearance in the shadow of his posts; and the No 8 Thomas Waldrom had a rush of blood to the head, running a penalty head-long into a posse of Cherry and White jerseys when a successful kick at goal would have levelled the scores.

The Tigers No 10, Billy Twelvetrees, made sure he got his hands to the ball at the next penalty, to level matters 12-12, but the introduction of Vainikolo proved decisive.

Gloucester O Morgan; C Sharples, H Trinder, J May (L Vainikolo, 59), J Simpson-Daniel; N Robinson, R Lawson (J Pasqualin, 68); N Wood (A Dickinson, 55), S Lawson (O Azam, 55), P Doran-Jones, J Hamilton, A Brown, B Deacon (P Buxton, 16), L Narraway (capt), A Hazell (A Qera, 63).

Leicester Tigers G Murphy (capt); S Hamilton, M Smith, A Allen, A Tuilagi; B Twelvetrees, J Grindal; M Ayerza, G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni (J White, 59-68), E Slater, G Skivington, C Newby (J Crane, 67), T Waldrom, B Woods.

Referee W Barnes (London).