Leeds Carnegie’s relegation from the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP was confirmed as leaders Gloucester secured a thumping victory at Kingsholm.
It means Leeds are unable to catch Worcester Warriors above them and return to National League One after a single season in the top flight.
Gloucester’s win, which featured a hat-trick of tries from Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera, sealed Gloucester’s place in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP play-offs where they are favourites to get home advantage.
Leeds can take some crumbs of comfort from the match in that they made life difficult for Gloucester in the first half.
Gloucester were expected to cruise past the struggling Yorkshiremen quickly and, after a period of softening up, it looked like the rout was about to start when Qera drove over the Leeds line, presenting Ryan Lamb with a simple conversion.
Yet Leeds battled back and managed to get within one point of the West Countrymen twice.
The pack presented Argentine fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo with two penalty chances which he accepted and, after Lamb had booted a penalty in front of the posts, Di Bernardo landed a 35-metre drop-goal.
They deserved it but just before the half-hour, a decisive missed tackle as Qera burst through the middle from the half-way line turned the match towards the Cherry and Whites. The Fijian was brought to ground 15 metres from the line but French hooker Olivier Azam grabbed the ball and regained the momentum to crash over under a pile of bodies next to the posts.
One talking point too was the brawl five minutes before the end that caused referee Martin Fox to sin-bin home second row Will James and opposite number Stuart Hooper.
Territory and possession-wise, Gloucester were far superior and two scores in three minutes sealed Leeds’ fate.
Both came from England Under-21 fly-half Lamb as he landed a 25 metre penalty before intercepting a sloppy pass to race over unopposed from the 30 metres.
From there, it was all about gaining the four-try bonus point for Gloucester and it came on the hour when the outstanding Qera drove over from an attacking line-out just seconds after Leeds replacement Vili Ma’asi was sin-binned for illegally holding back James.
Qera grabbed his third try on 68 minutes, which Lamb converted, while replacement Darren Edwards got a consolation try at the end for Leeds as Gloucester eased off.