McRae gets the drop on tame Tigers

Leicester 18 Gloucester 28

Tim Glover
Sunday 04 January 2004 01:00

Jonny Wilkinson has a lot to answer for. Not only for kicking England to the World Cup, thus ensuring the Webb Ellis Cup is clocking up more miles than the Beagle, but for turning the humble drop goal into the latest fashion accessory. It seems that almost every stand-off in the land is intent on having a snap shot at the posts.

Leicester's limitations were laid bare here, not just by Gloucester's thoroughly deserved and convincing victory but by the paucity of the Tigers' ambition in attack. This was highlighted by the contribution of Andy Goode. A couple of seasons ago the No 10 was released to Saracens, but last week he returned to the fold as Leicester attempted a hasty repair job on a season going hopelessly awry.

In his first comeback match against Leeds, Goode kicked six goals out of seven; yesterday he wasn't in the same league as Duncan McRae, the Australian who also left Saracens and who now looks a much more assured player behind the formidable Gloucester pack.

It was the West Country club's first Premiership success at Welford Road, the ground where the Tigers were once invincible and are now so vulnerable.

Goode had no fewer than four drop-goal attempts and missed the lot, the majority by an embarrassing width. McRae, on the other hand, landed two drop goals and also scored Gloucester's third try deep in injury time to confirm both an individual and a team superiority.

On a day when there were more MBEs present than at the East India Club, the honours went to Gloucester, who have been having problems of their own this season. Goode might have suspected it wasn't going to be his day when a penalty attempt in the second minute dropped just beneath the bar.

McRae kicked the first of his drop goals before Leicester reminded the sell-out crowd of the good old days. Goode released Ollie Smith with a short pass and the centre flashed between McRae and Henry Paul to score at the posts.

Their lead was short lived. Henry Tuilagi conceded a penalty for a deliberate knock-on which Paul kicked, and McRae's second drop goal put Gloucester ahead after the Tigers had conceded an indirect penalty at a scrum. One drop-goal attempt by Goode was so wide it almost hit the corner flag, but he was not helped by an erratic service from Austin Healey. Since suffering an injury last season Healey, alas, is not the player he was. The confidence which used to make him such a threat seems to have seeped from his game.

The first half went into injury time and Gloucester struck a decisive blow. Jake Boer, their inspirational captain, made a tremendous run and the move was maintained by Marcel Garvey on the right wing and then James Simpson-Daniel on the left, where Alex Brown was downed by a head-high tackle from Henry Tuilagi. Referee Roy Maybank conferred with a touch judge before being satisfied that Brown had grounded the ball. If the lock had failed to do so, Maybank's option would have been to award Gloucester a penalty try for Tuilagi's high tackle.

Trailing 14-7 at half-time, the news got worse for Leicester when Martin Johnson, the England captain, failed to reappear after suffering an injury to his left leg. However, Johnson and six of his team-mates who were members of England's squad Down Under paraded the Webb Ellis Cup around the ground at the end of another home defeat.

The appearance of the World Cup here has been a nice little earner for Leicester. It arrived at Welford Road on Friday and fans, paying £5 a time, queued around the stadium for the chance to have their photographs taken sitting next to the trophy. This process lasted until 3.30am on Saturday morning and the second wave began queuing at 4am. Last night the World Cup finally left Welford Road and was taken by police escort on the next leg of the holy trail, to Rotherham.

Meanwhile, the feelgood factor was being sorely tested as Gloucester increased their lead. McRae floated a long pass to Boer and when the flanker was halted just short, his inside pass to Junior Paramore enabled the No 8 to crash over. Leicester threatened briefly when they reduced Gloucester's lead to three points with their right wing Neil Baxter just making the line despite Simpson-Daniel's tackle and Goode adding a second penalty.

When Gloucester were penalised for handling in a ruck in the 80th minute, it seemed that Goode had a chance to level the scores, but his kick drifted wide and in the sixth minute of injury time the Tigers became the trophy when, appropriately, Boer flew from the tail of a line-out and found McRae on an unstoppable angle.

Leicester 18
Tries: Smith, Baxter
Con: Goode
Pens: Goode 2

Gloucester 28
Tries: Brown, Paramore, McRae
Cons: Paul 2
Pen: Paul
Drops: McRae 2

Half-time: 7-14 Attendance: 16,815

Leicester: J van der Westhuyzen; N Baxter, L Lloyd, O Smith, F Tuilagi; A Goode, A Healey; G Rowntree, J Richards (G Chuter, 74), D Morris, M Johnson (L Deacon, 40), B Kay, W Johnson (W Skinner, 74), H Tuilagi, N Back (capt).

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, R Todd (T Fanolua, 60), H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall; T Woodman, C Fortey, A Deacon, A Brown, M Cornwell (A Eustace, 60), J Boer (capt), J Paramore, P Buxton.

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).

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