Leicester brought Gloucester’s 22-game 17-month unbeaten home record to a halt in a fiercely contested clash at Kingsholm.
The meeting between the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP’s top two sides at Kingsholm saw unfamiliar players vying for their places.
Both sides missed a crop of senior players through injury and Six Nations call-ups but, while Leicester have spent years establishing a squad to cope with this time of year, Gloucester are still catching up.
They were forced to enlist several players who had barely featured for the club, if at all, this season, including Adam Balding, Jack Adams, Mark Foster and Jack Forster. They also fielded James Bailey at full-back, a position the winger had not filled since his amateur days.
Tigers fly-half Andy Goode immediately tested Bailey’s nerves with one of his high punts and the Gloucester man was easily bundled off the ball, although it did not dent his confidence.
Gloucester tried to move forward, with James Simpson-Daniel involved in most advances and the pack grinding out good yards, but they could not nail every facet of their game.
Poor line-outs proved costly and Leicester’s determination to play it simple denied their hosts any momentum. So, for all their possession, Gloucester could not break the last line of defence.
Instead, a solid drive from the Tigers with England Saxons captain Jordan Crane to the fore, gave Goode time to fire a long pass away from the bunched defence through Tom Varndell and Johne Murphy for Ollie Smith to score six minutes before half-time, with Goode converting.
The crowd turned their frustrations on referee Tony Spreadbury, who duly yellow-carded Gloucester lock Will James for stamping and Tigers flanker Ben Herring for killing the ball.
A Willie Walker penalty sent the hosts into half-time trailing 7-3, and they went ahead eight minutes into the second half when hooker Olivier Azam bounced over from a five-metre penalty line-out, with the ball returned to him by Peter Buxton.
Walker added the touchline conversion, but sent a long-range penalty wide and Goode was able to level the scores with his first penalty.
The pair traded points before former All Black Aaron Mauger cut the cleanest break through midfield and sent Ayoola Erinle storming to the try-line for Leicester’s second converted try in the 68th minute.
Gloucester almost struck back when Simpson-Daniel gathered Walker’s soft punt towards the posts but he was held up Christophe Laussucq.
As the home side made a desperate bid to retain their home record, a quickly tapped penalty by Gareth Cooper caught Herring out and he was sent off for his second yellow card.
They could not find a way through, but the one point they claimed was enough to hold on to top spot.