Win is not enough for tired Leicester

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Rugby Union

Leicester 28 Gloucester 6

Leicester edged closer to Bath with last night's win at Welford Road but these were not the inroads they needed. They are level at the top of the First Division but the leaders still have a decisive advantage in points difference of 60 with one game, Saturday's against Sale while the Tigers are playing Harlequins, to play.

This effectively means a Bath victory of even one point will suffice, though they need no reminding that they lost this very fixture a year ago.

Gloucester did not field the threatened full slate of second-teamers so as to preserve their first choice for Saturday's relegation decider against Saracens. But a more-or-less full back division is one thing and a weakened pack quite another, and it was in the latter area that the visitors were crucially deprived.

Still, it was not enough to warrant any complaints from Bath, who were themselves beaten by a below-strength Gloucester side a fortnight ago. In fact for long periods Gloucester had as much territory as Leicester and, with important exceptions, it was a case of which kicker - John Liley or Mark Mapletoft - would succeed more often.

Darren Garforth's try provided the light relief in the first half, a striking effort both in its long-range build-up and then in the way Bill Drake-Lee, having fed Garforth, was ignored as the England A prop sauntered past the gullible Mapletoft with an outrageous dummy.

Liley already had his first penalty and, when he converted, Leicester had given themselves the early cushion they desired. But far from then augmenting it as most of the 9,777 spectators anticipated, they were forced to gather breath and Mapletoft pulled back two penalties before Liley added his second with the final kick of the half.

Leicester had an excuse - the exhaustion that has followed playing four games in 11 days, and come Saturday it will be five in a fortnight. Even so, they summoned enough energy to begin the second identically with the end of the first, Liley kicking another penalty, and after an hour achieved the decisive try when Rory Underwood was freed 45 yards out.

Even now, Gloucester had their moments, not least when Adey Powles was shown the yellow card. But in injury time Leicester added their third try when Jamie Hamilton exploited a wide blind side for Liley to score and convert.

Leicester: Tries Garforth, Underwood, Liley; Conversions Liley 2; Penalties Liley 3. Gloucester: Penalties Mapletoft 2.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, R Robinson, R Underwood; N Malone, J Hamilton; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells (C Tarbuck, 25), D Richards (capt), W Drake-Lee.

Gloucester: M Mapletoft; P Holford, D Caskie, M Roberts (P Hart, 62), M Lloyd; M Kimber, B Fenley; A Powles, J Hawker, W Bullock, D Sims (capt), R West, C Gibson, M Cornwell, I Smith.

Referee: A Rowden (Thatcham, Berks).

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