Gloucester 39 Leeds 16: Qera is too quick by far for relegated Leeds

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The Independent Online

It was top versus bottom at Kingsholm and Leeds were put out of their misery. The excitement is starting to bubble, however, for Gloucester.

Leeds put their heart, soul and everything else they could muster into this battle; but then, they have been doing so all season. When Stuart Lancaster begins to strengthen, rather than sell off, his relegated squad, the director of rugby will surely hope to add some wit to the grit.

Leeds will tackle all day. All very commendable; all very predictable. Perhaps it would be kind to comment that what they lack in endeavour they make up for in application. Yet they don't. It is almost impossible to match the two in the professional game.

That harsh truth was barely concealed in the generous praise offered by Lancaster's opposite num-ber. "Leeds deserve enormous credit," said Dean Ryan, after watching his side confirm the visitors' return to National League One. "We played well in the first half and didn't get much from it. It was tough for us because we didn't get much from the mistake element from Leeds. They kept putting the onus back on us to play and, with a bit of drizzle and us playing fast, it was not really breaking them down."

So Ryan did what the modern coach needs to do – he changed things. He commanded his men to stop all the fancy stuff and be more direct and, with 22 points and three tries in the second half, they duly collected the bonus point they were chasing to ensure a place in the Premiership play-offs. Wasps away and Bath at home are left on the regular fixture list, but the Cherry and Whites should be confident of securing a home tie in the semi-finals.

Not that they will have only the legendary power of the Shed to help their shot at the silverware their league leadership deserves. They have overcome the disappointment of losing to Munster in the Heineken Cup a fortnight ago. That is an easier thing to do when you have a Fijian flanker who is not so much flying as in full supernova mode.

Akapusi Qera's hat-trick here was an exhibition of the No 7's art and it was nicely summed up by his coach. Said Ryan: "Three tries sometimes come from being stood at the right place at the right time. But for all his three tries he went looking for work. To have him is a great threat for us because he gets into the game and reads it so well."

And they said Qera could only perform on dry pitches. Rather like the "too inexperienced" tag that has been pinned on Gloucester, that was a myth just asking to be trampled into the West Country mud.

Gloucester: Tries Qera 3, Azam, Lamb; Conversions Lamb 4; Penalties Lamb 2. Leeds: Try Edwards; Conversion Brooks; Penalties Di Bernardo 2; Drop goal Di Bernardo.

Gloucester: W Walker (O Morgan, 62); I Balshaw, J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, L Vainikolo (C Paterson, 48); R Lamb, G Cooper; A Dickinson, O Azam (A Titterrell, 62), C Nieto (J Forster, 62), W James, M Bortolami (capt; A Brown, 80), A Strokosch (P Buxton, 59), A Qera, G Delve (Buxton, 28-35).

Leeds: L Hinton (J Goodridge, 50); S Armstrong, R Vickerman, L Burrell, J Holtby; A Di Bernardo (J Brooks, 69), J Bedford (D Edwards, 67); M MacDonald, J Parkes (V Ma'asi, 50), F Pala'amo (A Hopcroft, 62), P Bouza, S Hooper (capt), R Oakley, C Clark (K Myall, 50), M Lock.

Referee: M Fox (England).