Ellis and Gomarsall give Robinson a headache

Leicester 28 - Gloucester 13
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The set-to between potential England scrum-halves was a non-starter, and the injuries which confined Harry Ellis and Andy Gomarsall to watching briefs will be a major headache for Andy Robinson this morning.

Meanwhile, any corresponding pain in the bonce felt by Martin Johnson was connected solely with the claret dripping from the Leicester captain's forehead after a victorious conclusion to a full-blooded match.

Johnson, of course, has departed the international arena, but others, including his fellow Tigers forwards Lewis Moody, Martin Corry and Julian White, battled their hearts out with nary a thought of self-preservation before the autumn internationals.

Ellis would dearly love to join the Test brigade against Canada, but missed out here with an Achilles tendon injury and John Wells, Leicester's head coach, warned against optimism. "There is a concern that Harry's going to struggle for next week," said Wells. "He was sore before he played last week, and it was worse when he trained on Friday."

Ellis's principal rival, Gomarsall, was hit by a back spasm during the warm-up, having suffered a similar seizure earlier in the week - ironically while driving to and from England training. "He'll need to be assessed in the next couple of days," said Wells' Gloucester counterpart, Nigel Melville.

The third scrum-half in Robinson's 30-man squad, due to be trimmed to 22 tomorrow, is Newcastle's Hall Charlton, a more callow figure even than the 22-year-old Ellis. Could a recall for Matt Dawson, who chose a television appearance over training last month, be on the cards? What can be said with greater certainty is that Moody, Corry and White are ready to rumble; so too Andy Hazell, the Gloucester openside who went off after twisting his knee, but should be available if required.

Once the England housekeeping was out of the way there was little time to enthuse about the match. Beyond the dressing room doors, though, Welford Road was glorying in the defeat of opponents who had won the last four meetings between the teams. Johnson might have a scar for the first time in his career, as Wells smilingly pointed out, but the gaps which mattered were in the Gloucester defence.

Some of the Leicester faithful delight in referring to Gloucester disparagingly as the "tractor boys", rather ignoring Tigers' traditional support base in the county. Times change, and the home side were thankful to their connections much further afield for the three tries which moved them back to second place in the table, level on points with Sale but on one win fewer.

Seru Rabeni, the Fijian, carved Gloucester open in the 12th minute and two more tries after the interval by the young Samoan, Alex Tuilagi, punished more poor alignment in the Cherry and White ranks. Had Johnson gone for a possible pushover try when Gloucester's scrum was creaking with 75 minutes gone, the bonus point might have come too.

Rabeni's eighth try in 10 matches since joining in the summer marks his contribution already as more significant than his Fijian compatriots Waisale Serevi and Marika Vunibaka managed some while ago. Rabeni, who is also a Test cap for the new Pacific Islands side, took a pass from Andy Goode that was as flat as legally possible, brushed off Henry Paul and raced 45 metres to the posts untethered by James Bailey's cover tackle. Goode converted.

Just after half-time, Goode's second penalty - matching Paul's tally - made it 13-6 to Leicester. Then Johnson charged through a space left by Bailey's misjudgment and passed outside for the middle of the three Tuilagi brothers to claim his first senior try. The second, after another Goode penalty, was scored with the momentum of a slide after Jon Goodridge's flying ankle tap.

Paul almost sullenly grounded a try from Brad Davies's dab through, and converted in the 10th minute of added time. But Leicester had regained their self-respect after their Heineken Cup setback in Biarritz.

Leicester: S Vesty (R Broadfoot, 80); D Hipkiss (A Tuilagi, 54), S Rabeni, D Gibson, T Varndell; A Goode, S Bemand; D Morris (G Rowntree, 61), J Buckland (R Cockerill, 79), J White, M Johnson (capt; B Deacon 27-39, Moody 80), B Kay, H Tuilagi, M Corry, L Moody (N Back, 71).

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, T Fanolua (N Mauger, 71), H Paul, J Bailey; B Davies, A Page; C Bezuidenhout, C Fortey, P Vickery (G Powell, 79), A Eustace, M Cornwell (A Balding, 58), P Buxton, J Boer (capt), A Hazell (J Forrester, 54).

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset)

Comments