Gloucester vs Leicester Tigers match report: Tigers suffer another savaging

Gloucester 36 Leicester Tigers 16: Depleted Leicester endure a third Premiership defeat on the spin for the first time since 2011

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The Independent Online

Freddie Burns had feared the jeers of the Shed, predicting a chorus of “eeyores” from Gloucester’s supporters on the England fly-half’s first match back after a summer move to Leicester. Instead, the home crowd were too busy cheering their own team’s tries to worry about baiting an old boy.

Gloucester’s Ben Morgan was one of a number of other England candidates in cherry and white who gloried in being on the front foot as his team won their third match in five this season – and only the second in the last nine meetings with Leicester.

A complete overhaul of the Gloucester coaching staff in the summer has seen an inevitable period of readjustment but with Greig Laidlaw and James Hook guiding matters coolly from half-back, and the home forwards feeding on Leicester’s disarray, the first half became a rout.

The only minor problems for Gloucester were not completing a four-try bonus point – Dan Robson and Charlie Sharples fumbled a late chance horribly – and Billy Twelvetrees, their England centre, limping off with a dead leg described as “not serious” by director of rugby David Humphreys.

 

“The big improvement early on was our defence,” pointed out Humphreys.

Hook, Leicester’s Owen Williams and Gloucester hooker Richard Hibbard were under the beady eye of Wales’s coaches, while England’s forwards coach Graham Rowntree was also here and surely agonised inside at his former club’s woes.

Leicester have now lost three matches on the spin in the Premiership for the first time since October 2011. The obvious explanation as they languish in ninth place is a team’s worth of absentees including 10 international players injured and loose-head prop Marcos Ayerza away with Argentina.

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Richard Cockerill has endured a tough few weeks at Welford Road

Richard Cockerill, who signed a contract extension last year to stay as Leicester’s director of rugby to 2018, said: “We have to keep our heads on, and take a measured view. Yes, it’s far from ideal – combinations are hard when you’ve got a No 10 playing 12, a wing playing 13, and full-back [Mat Tait] goes off injured.”

Brad Thorn, the mighty former All Black making his Leicester debut, won line-outs and offered himself for passes but he knocked on one. There were errors everywhere from those in green. By contrast, Matt Kvesic for Gloucester worked ferociously at heeding the words of his club’s Australian head coach, Laurie Fisher, for ever looking to be quickest to the breakdown. It cost a couple of penalties to Leicester,  as Laidlaw’s three kicks to two by Williams made it 9-6 to the home team.

But Gloucester pulled clear by a whopping 21 points by half-time with three tries after Leicester lost Tait to a neck injury and became disjointed in their wide defence.

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Greg Laidlaw released a pass for Gloucester

Their first try in the 20th minute was a nightmare for Burns. Some doddery Leicester work, as they supported a mark and tapped kick by their wing Blaine Scully, ended with Burns standing deep to take a pass from Williams but still getting charged down by Gloucester’s Tom Savage. The tall second-row did brilliantly to scoop up the loose ball while being tackled by the covering Williams, and feed Nick Wood to score. For Wood, it was a nice augmentation on a timely return from injury in front of Rowntree, with rival England looseheads Mako Vunipola and Alex Corbisiero on the long-term treatment table.

Laidlaw converted Wood’s try and did so twice more as two more England players – the Gloucester wings Sharples and Jonny May – ran Leicester ragged. Sione Kalamafoni’s pass sent Sharples sprinting between Niki Goneva and Scully, then May finished off some straight running by Hook and Rob Cook, after Twelvetrees’ replacement Mark Atkinson had crashed the ball into midfield off a line-out. With a penalty by Williams in between, Gloucester’s 30-9 interval was as horrible for Leicester as the 23-0 they suffered en route to a 45-point thrashing at Bath a fortnight ago.

This time they managed a late try by David Mélé converted by Williams after Scully’s determined run and Julian Salvi’s brilliant link. But they need the likes of Manu Tuilagi and Tom Croft back – and soon.

Line-ups:

Gloucester: R Cook; C Sharples, H Purdy, B Twelvetrees (capt, M Atkinson 22), J May (T Isaacs 61); J Hook, G Laidlaw (D Robson 59); N Wood (Y Thomas 64), R Hibbard (A Lutui 75), J Afoa (S Puafisi 75), T Savage (E Stooke 66), T Palmer, S Kalamafoni (R Moriarty 72), M Kvesic, B Morgan.

Leicester Tigers: M Tait (M Smith 19, S Harrison 78); B Scully, N Goneva, O Williams, M Benjamin; F Burns, B Youngs (capt, D Mele 59); M Rizzo (T Bristow 57), L Ghiraldini (T Pasquali 70), F Balmain, B Thorn (S de Chaves 57), G Kitchener, J Gibson, J Salvi, R Barbieri (J Crane 56).

Referee: A Small (London).

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