Paul protects the citadel

Gloucester 24 Leeds 19
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The Independent Online

The walls of Fortress Kingsholm had to withstand a battering from Leeds and gale force winds from the whistle of debutant referee Sean Davey before the Cherry and Whites were able to trot off the pitch with their unbeaten home record intact. It is now more than two years since Gloucester last tasted defeat in competitive rugby at Kingsholm - against Leicester in September 2001 - but they came close to losing yesterday, falling foul of Mr Davey an incredible 20 times, as well as thoroughly messing up their line-outs.

They still deserved victory. In their flanker Andy Hazell they had a blur of perpetual motion for the hour or so that he was on the field, up front they had a so-solid crew and out wide a far superior strikeforce - the wonder of it was that they missed a fourth try and a bonus point. Henry Paul directed events with his customary cunning, but there was not a lot that could be done about the stop-start nature of the game. At least they now boast those 34 home victories on the trot - 24 of them in the Premiership.

Although the well-organised Leeds forwards managed to shock their opponents early on at the set piece and the line-out, it was Gloucester who supplied the electricity that jump-started the match. Indeed the Leeds line-out went to pieces as the match progressed. Two tries in five minutes by forgotten England wing James Simpson-Daniel and a third after half an hour by the turbo-charged No 8 James Forrester had a packed Kingsholm screaming approval.

Simpson-Daniel looked to have clinched his hat-trick but was adjudged to have knocked on in attempting to ground Paul's clever grubber-kick through the Leeds defence. But his first two touchdowns were very good. Duncan McRae set up the first with a lightning break left that was followed by a perfect pass to give the Gloucester dasher a clear, and brief, run to the line.

The second came after more Cherry and Whites pressure that finally saw Paul sling out a long pass to Robert Todd. The muscular centre found Simpson-Daniel steaming up, scenting further fodder. He scorched through one despairing tackle before stepping precisely inside a transfixed Phil Christophers. Just a couple of minutes later Gloucester's other speedster, Marcel Garvey, was put away by Todd's long pass but he faltered just short of the line after a sizzling run that had outstripped the floundering Leeds cover.

Forrester, though, made no mistake when he thundered on to a pass at a tap penalty and crashed over. It was a good thing that Paul had converted all three though, because the dogged Tykes kept on snapping and chivvying.

They were well rewarded too. Duncan Hodge landed two penalties and then converted scrum-half Alan Dickens's soft try from a five-metre scrum on the stroke of half-time. Midway through the second half the gap was further closed by a third Hodge penalty, though it was swiftly countered by Paul's first success at his third attempt.

Until then Gloucester had been frustrated in their quest for the all-important fourth try. They were not helped by conceding a string of penalties to the eagle-eyed Mr Davey. That is what let Leeds straight back in again, as Hodge knocked over his fourth goal.

Gloucester 24
Tries: Simpson-Daniel 2, Forrester
Cons: Paul 3
Pen: Paul

Leeds 19
Try: Dickens
Con: Hodge
Pens: Hodge 4

Half-time: 21-13 Attendance: 9,832

Gloucester: J Goodridge (S Amor, 58); M Garvey, R Todd (J Frape, 40), H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Page; P Johnstone (A Olver, 71), C Fortey, A Deacon, A Brown, M Cornwell (A Eustace, 60), J Boer (capt), J Forrester, A Hazell (P Buxton, 63).

Leeds: T Walsh; D Scarbrough, P Christophers, T Davies, D Rees; D Hodge, A Dickens (R Walker, 75); M Shelley (capt), R Rawlinson, S Halford (M Holt, 64), S Hooper, P Murphy, M Salter, D Hyde (S Morgan 17-24), J Ponton.

Referee: S Davey (Horsham).