Paul finds redemption in the rain

Leicester 13 - Gloucester 20
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The Independent Online

Leicester are left to concentrate on the double of the Zurich Premiership and the Heineken Cup after falling at the third hurdle of the triple crown, the Powergen Cup. Following their back-to-back epic victories over Wasps in Europe, the Tigers rested half their England pack as well as most of their frontline three-quarters but that, of course, did not mean they were taking this tie lightly. This club would hate losing a game of Monopoly to Tiny Tim.

Leicester are left to concentrate on the double of the Zurich Premiership and the Heineken Cup after falling at the third hurdle of the triple crown, the Powergen Cup. Following their back-to-back epic victories over Wasps in Europe, the Tigers rested half their England pack as well as most of their frontline three-quarters but that, of course, did not mean they were taking this tie lightly. This club would hate losing a game of Monopoly to Tiny Tim.

The Premiership leaders fought like, well, Tigers against a Gloucester side who, on paper at least, looked much stronger and certainly more experienced.

"Because of injuries and England commitments we cannot put the same players out each week even if we wanted to," John Wells, the Leicester coach, said beforehand. "A number of lads have had a gruelling period with Test-match intensity every day for six weeks, not only at international level but also at club level." He added that people had the opportunity to "make their own headlines". Wells did not have Ashley Rowden's name in mind.

Referee Rowden was booed from Welford Road after making a number of decisions mid-way through the second-half that were nothing if not extremely brave. Gloucester, who had been repeatedly penalised in the first half, were trailing 10-6 when they effectively booked their passage to the quarter-finals with 14 points in two minutes.

Once Jake Boer was up-ended at a line-out, it was Leicester who found themselves incurring the wrath of Rowden. The referee had a word with both captains, Boer and Ben Kay. And as Gloucester laid siege to the Tigers' line, they were awarded penalty after penalty, which they chose to kick to touch with the intention of setting up a rolling maul from the ensuing line-out.

On each occasion, however, Leicester endeavoured to keep them out more by foul means than fair and they paid heavily when the flanker Brett Deacon was sent to the sin-bin in the 56th minute for grabbing hold of an opponent's leg as if it was a piece of chicken.

Ultimately, when Gloucester managed to drive over the Leicester line they were illegally prevented from grounding the ball and Rowden had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. Henry Paul's conversion from in front of the posts gave Gloucester the lead at 13-10 and two minutes later the Welford Road crowd, who had already given Rowden the bird, were calling for his blood after Gloucester got their second try following a bizarre passage of play.

It all started from an innocuous looking kick by the stand-off Brad Davies but as the beall descended out of the rain clouds, Roger Warren went up for it and completely misjudged the flight. Perhaps Warren was still getting acclimatised to the conditions for he had only just come on as a replacement for Ross Broadfoot. One of the first players to react was Alex Brown, but his blatant knock-on was missed by the referee and the rolling ball was picked up by Paul, who sent the unmarked Nathan Mauger over for a try. Paul's conversion gave the West Country club a 10-point lead.

In some ways it was an act of redemption by Paul, who earlier had failed with three penalty attempts, the first two from long-range. The third, on the stroke of half-time, was almost a sitter and had been awarded after Kay had up-ended Brown at a line-out. It meant that Leicester held a 7-3 lead at the interval after a fine opportunist try by the left wing Tom Varndell. It lit up a pretty dismal first-half which, admittedly played in difficult conditions and on a pitch that had not fully recovered from the mauling it had received the previous week, contained innumerable errors, in both handling and kicking.

Varndell's try appeared as if by magic. First Gloucester inexplicably lost a ruck, and when Leicester probed the short side there was very little room or time to do anything. Under the circumstances Leon Lloyd's grub kick was the perfect response. Even so there seemed little danger as the ball rolled towards the touchline. Marcel Garvey was clearly under that impression.

Varndell thought otherwise. With the ball inches from going out of play, the wing hacked it on with his left foot and as he did so he placed his boot on the line. With the full-back Jon Goodridge having no chance to turn as quickly as was necessary, Varndell won the race for the try.

Broadfoot, who had missed a couple of penalty attempts, made no mistake with the conversion. Gloucester complained that as Varndell had brushed the white paint the touch judge should have raised his flag and the try should have been disallowed. "Not so", replied the officials. Had Varndell been in possession at the time, it would indeed have been an infringement but as he wasn't, it wasn't.

Leicester: S Vesty; A Tuilagi (D Hipkiss, 82), L Lloyd, O Smith, T Varndell; R Broadfoot (R Warren, 58), S Bemand; M Holford, G Chuter (E Taukafa, 75), D Morris, J Hamilton, B Kay (capt), B Deacon, W Johnson, L Moody.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, N Mauger, H Paul, S Kiole; B Davies, A Gomarsall; C Bezuidenhout, M Davies, G Powell, A Eustace (P Buxton, 49), A Brown, J Boer (capt), A Balding, A Hazell (J Forrester, 63).

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).

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