Mathew Tait and Mike Tindall clash at Welford Road
16 February 2014, 03:57 pm ::
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
Leicester Tigers 11 Gloucester Rugby 8
Toby Flood's late penalty got Leicester Tigers out of jail and denied Gloucester what would have been a hard-fought share of the spoils at Welford Road.
Not in seven years have the Cherry & Whites won on Leicester's turf but for a while on Sunday afternoon it looked like their time had come, Charlie Sharples scoring their only try of the game.
But as is so often the way with the Tigers, they came grinding back and in the end the pressure told as Mathew Tait scored a try before Flood kicked a late penalty.
The defending Aviva Premiership champions have a real battle on their hands to make the play-offs this year and this victory keeps them in touch with Harlequins.
While for Nigel Davies' Gloucester they have now only won twice in their last ten league outings and sit tenth in the table.
The visitors, with Ryan Mills calling the shots at fly-half as Freddie Burns sat on the bench, twice came agonisingly close to tries in the early exchanges.
Sharples and Sione Kalamafoni both touched down but in both cases the whistle had already gone for an earlier infringement, slack handling letting them down at the last moment.
The Tigers were growing in influence and Flood had already pulled a penalty wide when they had their first real chance of the game.
Tom Youngs, released by England, bulldozed his way into the clear and when the ball was worked wide to the right a try seemed certain for Matt Smith but Gloucester scrambled well and the chance was lost.
In truth it was a scrappy first half as errors throughout halted the tempo but the Tigers were certainly dominating the battle up front.
And on the half hour mark the scrum won another penalty for the home side and this time Flood made no mistake to put them 3-0 up.
But still neither side could settle and after the Tigers were caught crossing in midfield Rob Cook had the chance to level things with a long-range penalty but the full-back's attempt fell short.
No sooner had he missed, however, Cook was handed an easier chance from closer in after yet another Tigers handling error and this time he made no mistake to level up matters at the interval.
After the break the Gloucester scrum was really beginning to splinter but despite their clear disadvantage they were still on level terms.
A Smith break through midfield looked like setting the Tigers up in the Gloucester 22 but Flood was caught napping and again the Cherry & Whites escaped.
And the Tigers were soon made to pay as Gloucester deservedly scored the first try of the match to hit the front.
A Ben Youngs clearing kick failed to find touch and when the ball was fed right Martyn Thomas produced a sublime back-of-the-hand inside ball to release Sharples who made no mistake.
Cook missed the conversion attempt but the Cherry & Whites led 8-3 as the clock ticked round to the hour mark and an upset began to look very much on the cards.
All of the energy appeared to be with the visitors who were defending well and in Sharples they had the game's most potent attacking force on the counter.
But still penalties were conceding territory and with the Cherry & Whites penned in their own 22 the Tigers hit back as they so often do.
Tait was the beneficiary at the end, dotting down on the right after the Youngs brothers had worked the ball across. Flood missed the conversion meaning the scores were level at 8-8 but now it was the Tigers with the momentum.
Niki Goneva was punching holes in the middle and Gloucester were clinging on as the game entered the closing stages.
Davies' troops deserved a share of the spoils but their frailty at the scrum ended up costing them, a penalty conceded in kickable range and this time Flood made them pay to open up a three-point lead.
Gloucester had next to no time to muster a response and when the otherwise impressive Matt Kvesic knocked on, their chance had passed and the final whistle blown.