Leicester Tigers’ Aviva Premiership Rugby season went from bad to worse at Kingsholm as Richard Cockerill’s men slumped to a third successive league loss as they were routed by Gloucester Rugby.
The Cherry and Whites scored three first-half tries through Nick Wood, Charlie Sharples and Jonny May as Gloucester started like an express train against a depleted Leicester.
Despite playing the second-half in parts with a numerical disadvantage, Leicester were much improved after the break and kept Gloucester from securing a deserved bonus point.
Leicester started like a team struggling for form and confidence at Kingsholm, conceding three early penalties as referee Andrew Small penalised the Tigers time and again at the breakdown for various indiscretions.
Greig Laidlaw knocked over all three kicks at goal for the home side inside the first 12 minutes as Gloucester raced into a 9-3 lead early on.
Cockerill’s men have a crippling injury list at present but they were buoyed ahead of kick-off as former All Blacks lock Brad Thorn and Italy prop Michele Rizzo were handed debuts.
They may have started sluggishly but two Owen Williams penalties inside the opening 15 minutes kept Leicester within touching distance of Gloucester.
On his return to Kingsholm, former Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns was given a hostile reception in the opening minutes – an early miscue with the boot was greeted with particular glee.
Tigers had lost their last two matches against Bath Rugby and London Irish and had not been defeated in three successive Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since October 2011.
But a disjointed opening half, particularly from their once-feared pack, saw Gloucester firmly in the ascendancy and offered a reason why the Tigers have been struggling this term.
Burns’ afternoon got worse on 20 minutes as Tom Palmer charged down his attempted clearance – Tom Savage chased down the loose ball and off-loaded to prop Wood to touch down for a score, with Laidlaw adding the extras to make the score 16-6.
And just minutes later it could have been worse for Leicester but this time Laidlaw missed his kick at goal with a simple-looking penalty.
On 26 minutes Gloucester, who lost their previous home fixture against Exeter Chiefs, were in dreamland as Sharples cantered in out wide for the Cherry and Whites’ second score of the afternoon – Laidlaw again converting his shot at goal.
Williams reduced the deficit on 32 minutes with a penalty for the Tigers but it was only a brief positive note for the visitors as Gloucester scored their third try of the afternoon on 35 minutes.
This time May was the chief recipient of poor Leicester defensive work as he dotted the ball down, with Laidlaw once again adding the extras off the tee to leave the half-time score at 30-9.
Leicester turned down an early shot at goal after the break and instead kicked for touch in the Gloucester 22 – unfortunately for the Tigers though after securing their own ball, a knock-on saw their momentum halted.
Laidlaw added the first points of the second–half after 57 minutes – his penalty in front of the posts punished Leicester indiscipline at the breakdown and extended Gloucester’s lead to 33-9.
Leicester’s job got even harder on 63 minutes as Vereniki Goneva was wrongly yellow carded – it should have been Miles Benjamin penalised for a dangerous tackle but referee Small refused to hear the Tigers’ protests.
Gloucester will feel frustrated not to have picked up a bonus point in the closing stages; the Cherry and Whites were unable to score a fourth try, with Sharples somehow knocking on a metre out when it seemed easier to score than not.
Leicester scored a late consolation try in the final minute as replacement scrum half David Mele touched down with Williams adding the extras, but it was too little too late.