Sunday drivers have earned a reputation for timidity, but yesterday the Zurich Premiership leaders, Gloucester, rewrote that definition in emphatic fashion.
There was no Trevor Woodman, no Phil Vickery, but Andy Deacon and Rodrigo Roncero were not found wanting, nor were any of the Cherry and Whites eight, as they extended Gloucester's unbeaten home run in all competitions, a record which goes back to September last year when Leicester won at Kingsholm. The driving off the line-out was textbook and terrifying. Fast and furious, they hurtled into the opposition, sometimes smashing them back 15 or 20 metres, and large tracts of Kingsholm were covered as the home side established their authority in that area.
It said a lot for the Leeds defence – after what the assistant Gloucester coach, Dean Ryan, had described as "one of the most physical club matches I have ever seen" – that they were able to restrict the home side to just three tries.
Two of those scores came when Leeds were a man down after the makeshift centre Alix Popham, a No 8 by trade, was sent off for 10 minutes after his second high tackle in a couple of minutes. "It's difficult enough playing here with 15 men, let alone with 14," said Phil Davies, the Leeds director of rugby.
Leeds were without three key players, the centre George Harder, Diego Albanese and Gordon Ross, and with such a shortage of backs, Davies was forced into playing Popham out of position. "I don't think he will be picked there again," was Davies' wry conclusion.
Gloucester then showed that they are no slouches in the loose. Their captain, Jake Boer, went thundering through for the opening try before a stunning move was begun and ended by Junior Paramore. The ball flowed upfield through a river of Gloucester hands after Paramore had scavenged some loose ball at a line-out, and the Samoan was on hand to touch down. That settled the outcome, although the spirited Leeds side promptly scored their only try on Popham's return, an interception by the left wing, Craig Emmerson.
Leeds never gave up, and even after Robert Todd had scored following a slick interchange with the winger Tom Beim, Gloucester were given no respite. They conceded a string of second-half penalties, one of which saw the dismissal to the sin bin for Gloucester fly-half Ludovic Mercier after he had kicked the ball away after another infringement. But ultimately Gloucester's resolve, and defence, held firm.
Gloucester: Tries Boer, Paramore, Todd; Conversions Mercier 2; Penalties Mercier 3. Leeds: Try Emmerson; Conversion Van Straaten; Penalty Van Straaten.
Gloucester: H Paul; T Delport, T Fanolua, R Todd, T Beim; L Mercier, A Gomarsall; R Roncero, O Azam, A Deacon, R Fidler (A Eustace, 76), M Cornwell, J Boer (capt), J Paramore, J Forrester (P Buxton, 57).
Leeds: D Scarbrough (P Lupton, 29); C Hall, A Popham, B van Straaten, C Emmerson; T Davies, A Dickens; M Shelley (capt), R Rawlinson (M Regan, 52), G Kerr, C Murphy(S Campbell, 52), T Palmer, C Mather, I Feaunati, D Hyde (J Ponton, 52).
Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol)
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