Gloucester retained their lead at the top of the Premiership despite losing narrowly to their nearest rivals, Leicester, in a thrilling match. The defeat ended an unbeaten home run of 22 games, but Gloucester contributed mightily to an epic game.
The line-ups may have lacked big name players and there might have been a lack of points in the first half, but the teams managed to pack in a lot of action. There were scuffles and two yellow cards – for Gloucester's Will James and Leicester's Ben Herring – before the interval. Herring picked up a second yellow late in the game which meant an automatic red as Leicester held out in a frenzied finish.
Leicester, without 13 first-choice players, created plenty of chances but the home defence held firm for more than half an hour before the Tigers drew first blood. Tom Varndell, who many feel should be in Italy today, turning out for England, showed he can create openings as well as score tries. He came off the right wing following a line-out and straightened up before shipping to Johne Murphy, who drew the remaining Gloucester cover before putting Ollie Smith free on the left.
Smith, who has been linked with a possible end-of-season move to Gloucester, made no mistake and Andy Goode added the conversion.
Despite some spirited and thrilling breaks by the Gloucester centre, Jack Adams, who has been on loan to Moseley for most of the season, the Cherry and Whites, who were themselves without 16 first-choice players, found Leicester's defence too well-drilled to concede a try.
But the Tigers finally conceded a penalty and Willie Walker put Gloucester back on track with the last kick of the half, landing the three points.
Most of the crowd went wild eight minutes into the second half when the home hooker, Olivier Azam, and lock Peter Buxton worked a crafty one-two at a five-metre line-out, earning the Frenchman a simple try which was converted by Walker. Goode and Walker exchanged further penalties before Leicester's Aaron Mauger found Ayoola Erinle running off his outside shoulder and put the burly centre into bags of space on the right. Goode converted.
The match boiled up into a frenetic finish, with Gloucester's James Simpson-Daniel getting over the line only to be held up, heroically, by Mauger under the posts, deep into added time. The home fans' disappointment was clearly palpable.
Gloucester: J Bailey; J Simpson-Daniel, J Adams (A James, 74), A Allen, M Foster; W Walker, R Lawson (G Cooper, 55); N Wood, O Azam (J Paul, 56), J Forster (A Dickinson, 73), P Buxton (capt), W James, A Strokosch, A Hazell, A Balding (J Pendlebury, 66).
Leicester: J Murphy; T Varndell, A Erinle, A Mauger, O Smith; A Goode, C Laussucq; M Ayerza, G Chuter (B Kayser, 56), A Moreno, T Croft, M Wentzel (B Deacon, 13), M Corry (capt), B Herring, J Crane.
Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset).