Gloucester stay on course despite Tindall's midfield misfire

Gloucester 31 Leeds 7
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The Independent Online

To call it a success on the basis of yesterday's scoreline, which moved Gloucester up to third in the Premiership, would be quite wrong. Indeed, if Tindall is anyone's idea of a second pivot at inside centre, where England used him throughout the autumn, including in tandem with Simpson-Daniel for one entirely unconvincing half against Samoa, the national side might as well be coached by Mel Brooks.

So why do Gloucester do it? It probably has something to do with Tindall's quality in defence. But the inherent paucity when it comes to their attacking options was painfully exposed when Leeds went down to 14 men, then 13, indecently early in the piece. Yes, Gloucester used the advantage to establish a 24-point lead which won them the match. But it was not through anything that showed Tindall in a good light creatively. The gifted Simpson-Daniel must feel like an Olympic sharpshooter whose gun is being loaded with Maris Pipers.

Gloucester set out to do a job on the Leeds eight and the match was in its formative stages when three penalties against the visitors were each followed by a kick to touch rather than at goal. From the second of them, Leeds' hooker Rob Rawlinson was shown the yellow card for illegally killing the driven line-out. From the third of them the Gloucester prop Nick Wood was held up driving for the line, but the scrum delivered a chance on the short side. When Leeds' fly-half Gordon Ross batted away a probable scoring pass from Peter Richards to James Bailey he joined Rawlinson in the sin bin and Gloucester were awarded a penalty try. Emboldened by a 10-0 lead - Ludovic Mercier converted after earlier kicking a penalty from the 10-metre line - Gloucester did not let up. Nor should they have, against 13 men. At one scrum, Leeds had only four backs outside the pack.

Mercier, inwardly smarting after ruining a double overlap, made a try for himself with a dummy to a loaded back line and a chip which bounced kindly for him off the left-hand upright.

Leeds went back up to 14 men but fell further behind when Adam Balding's initial charge from the back of a scrum was taken on by Tindall, at his most effective head-down and gung-ho. The ball was recycled towards the posts where Simpson-Daniel needed only to follow his nose to exploit a huge gap. Mercier converted, it was 24-0, and Leeds' happy memories of their previous visit here, when they picked up maximum points during a run of four wins which preserved their Premiership status at the end of last season, were history.

Gloucester had the outstanding tight forwards in Alex Brown and Phil Vickery; Leeds gave the promising 18-year-old Danny Care a first league start in place of Justin Marshall who had a sore shoulder. But for almost an hour Gloucester were unable to score a try against 15 men. Only when Leeds' Jordan Crane, who rumbled over for a 72nd-minute try, was sin-binned six minutes into added time did the bonus point arrive. Mercier grub-kicked through for Simpson-Daniel to score. Leeds, still bottom of the table, must begin to plot another escape route.

Gloucester: O Morgan; M Foster, J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall (T Fanolua, 62), J Bailey; L Mercier, P Richards (H Thomas, 65); N Wood (T Sigley, 62), M Davies, P Vickery (capt), A Eustace (J Pendlebury, 60), A Brown, J Boer (R Elloway, 79), A Balding (P Buxton, 54), A Hazell (B Davies, 91).

Leeds Tykes: D Doherty; A Snyman, R Vickerman (C Bell, 55), C Jones, T Biggs; G Ross, D Care; K Lensing (M Shelley, 55), R Rawlinson (G Bulloch, 62), R Gerber, S Hooper (capt; J Dunbar, 55), T Palmer, S Morgan (Bulloch, 15-24), R Reid (J Crane, 55), R Parks (N Thomas, 55).

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).