Paul the icing on the Cherry cake

Gloucester 58 Leeds 17
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The Independent Online

Exciting times at Gloucester. Beaten only once at Kingsholm this season, by Leicester, they rattled up their third batch of maximum points here in a row, and were so far in front by half-time that Henry Paul was able to switch to stand-off for a useful work-out in the unfamiliar position after five matches at inside centre.

Leeds, for their part, have sunk alarmingly since beating Leicester three weeks ago, conceding 169 points in a trio of crushing defeats.

Gloucester's owner, Tom Walkinshaw, recently mooted the idea of building a new stadium elsewhere, which is the sort of heresy you can get away with when your team is in this form. But for a couple of narrow defeats on the road, the Cherry jerseys might have been top of the Premiership by now. Certainly, with Sale, London Irish and Newcastle still to travel west, the stated ambition of Philippe Saint-André to qualify for the Heineken Cup ought to be comfortably within reach.

Leeds were blown away by a burst of four tries in 20 first-half minutes, and an even more rapid-fire quartet after the interval. But even during the spells when the Tykes' goal-line stood intact, their misfiring line-out and creaking scrum undermined the much-anticipated comeback of Steve Bachop to outside-half after an Achilles injury.

Bachop was quick enough to snaffle a try with a charge-down of Paul's first kick of the second half – shades of Iestyn Harris for Wales against Argentina, except that, for Paul, the afternoon's embarrassment began and ended there.

Ludovic Mercier had kicked Gloucester into a 6-3 lead when the try rush began after 19 minutes. Dmitri Yachvili's grubber kick behind a scrum squirted obligingly into the path of Daren O'Leary, who hacked on and scored in the corner. Paul collected the easiest try of his career in either code when Dan Scarbrough tossed an inside pass straight to him, then Mercier went over from Phil Vickery's deft pass out of the tackle. When Paul clattered the ball from John O'Reilly's hands, James Simpson-Daniel charged 80 metres for the bonus point, with 37 minutes gone.

Braam van Straaten, Leeds's newly-signed Springbok, will make his debut at home to Harlequins next weekend, presumably to bring organisation to a backline which at times in the second half was a shambles. Simpson-Daniel and Marcel Garvey, respectively 19 and 18 years old, were among the tries as Gloucester responded to Bachop's score by piling on 26 unanswered points. And how the Shed roared when two extravagant dummied passes paved the way for Adam Eustace to score the eighth try.

Leeds's director of rugby, Phil Davies, admitted his young side, who have yet to win away from Headingley, were finding life tough. "We have a game plan," Davies said, "but when we don't stick to it, we get stuffed."

Gloucester: R Todd; D O'Leary (M Garvey, h-t), J Ewens, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; L Mercier (T Fanolua, 66), D Yachvili (A Gomarsall, 66); P Vickery (capt; A Deacon, 61), C Fortey, F Pucciariello (P Collazo, 59), M Cornwell, E Pearce, K Sewabu, J Paramore (J Forrester, h-t), J Boer (A Eustace, 59).

Leeds: J Benson; D Scarbrough (G Mackay, 50), S Woof, T Davies, C Emmerson; S Bachop, J O'Reilly (C Kendra, 61); M Shelley (capt), M Holt (R Rawlinson, 50), G Kerr (K Fullman, 50), C Murphy (E Jones, 61), T Palmer, C Hogg, I Feaunati, C Mather.

Referee: R Goodliffe (Yorkshire).

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