There was a crisp autumnal chill in the air on Saturday afternoon at Kingsholm where 15,127 excited supporters packed out the Shed and surrounding stands.
The skies were clear blue and the sun shone brightly with a real buzz of expectation resounding around the ground as Gloucester supporters waited with baited breath to see how their revamped team would fair against the recently ragged Tigers.
It was a battle of the boot for the first fifteen minutes, as Greig Laidlaw and Owen Williams kicked three penalties apiece and general discipline was a little rough around the edges to say the least.
But after the nerves and handling errors had subsided past the twenty minute mark, a Tiger’s tap and go saw a charge down off Freddie Burns’ clearance kick and it was Nick Wood who burrowed over the line for the Cherry and Whites. Laidlaw added the extras to nudge the Cherry and Whites into a 16-6 lead.
The excitement had only just started!
Seven minutes later, a superb line from Charlie Sharples saw him bouncing off defenders from the half way line, like they were the bristles of a hedgehog, to ease over the white-wash. Laidlawâ€™s trusty boot complied and Gloucester were in the driving seat – raring to hit the gas – and they did.
Sensational quick pick and go’s from the Gloucester forwards emphasised their composure, control and intent. And even when Owen Williams slotted a penalty for Leicester to take the score to 23-9 with seven minutes to go, it was Gloucester who had the final say of the first half.
Four minutes later, this get up and go Gloucester pack were on the rampage yet again. This time it was through the hands of James Hook and Rob Cook on the attack, setting Charlie Sharples up beautifully as he ripped into the game, striding over the try line.
This redefined team were determined to stamp their authority all over this Tigers side. Could they manage it in the second half?
Well the second half wasnâ€™t a patch on the first. It was initially lifeless and it took twenty minutes to see points on the board; Laidlaw notching up a fourth penalty kick.
Five minutes later and the Shed were in uproar as Miles Benjamin acted dangerously with a dump tackle on Charlie Sharples. But the wrong man was sent to the bin! It was Niki Goneva who saw yellow instead.
With Leicester down to 14 men, surely it was try time again for Gloucester?
Well you would’ve thought so. Back on the accelerator Gloucester looked strong, sharp and relentless but a knock on by Dan Robson, inches from the try line, left Kingsholm in dismay!
It was then Leicester who scored a last minute try, on the bounce; David Mele finishing the job and Williams converting.
Full Time: Gloucester 33-16 Leicester Tigers
Pressure paid off for the Cherry and Whites and this will undoubtedly give them the confidence and much needed momentum going into next weekâ€™s clash against the Saracens at Allianz Park. I spoke with David Humphreys, Gloucesterâ€™s Director of Rugby, after the win and he emphasised his elation;
â€œWe believe we’re able to show we’ve developed the game. We’ll always have that X Factor that they bring to us (Sharples and May).â€
â€œSaracens…it’s a tough ask but having come off the back of a 33-16 win, of course we’re in a good place but Saracens will pose us a very different challenge. It’s something at this stage of the season we can now go there and play and hopefully produce some of the form that we showed in the first half.â€
As for Leicester, their defence dwindled and although they packed a last minute punch, their performance just didn’t meet the expectation of a top Premiership side; but are injuries the root cause playing havoc with this Tigers pack?
Well Leicesterâ€™s Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill said,
“…We made some poor decisions…and we never recovered…”
But he seemed to think it could be a different scenario towards the end of the season;
“…There will be some positives at the end of it, in twelve months time when we sit here and we’re doing well it’ll be because of the strength the lads find now… and sometimes you have to galvanise and you have to use the negatives that are pushed at you to make you stronger, that’s an experience…â€
It was also Brad Thornâ€™s first dose of Premiership action; he spoke of his experience playing in a Tigers shirt after the match;
â€œObviously disappointing the result letting the game slip away there…for me it’s six months since a serious injury so I expected to be a bit rusty and expected to maybe be a bit down on fitness but I enjoyed myself, I still have a big passion for this game, being out there with a good crowd and a solid contest just made me pleased to be playing a bit more footy.â€
The Man of the Match was awarded to Ben Morgan. I would’ve chosen either Sione Kalamafoni for his defiant defence or Greig Laidlaw for his composure locking in 18 points alone.
The fruits of this game are just what the doctor ordered for Gloucester to boost their self-esteem going forward. Even though the home side only scored three points in the second half, it doesn’t take the shine off their continued strength and courage.
Well done Gloucester!
By Rhiannon Chandler-Day
You can see more from Rhiannon at: http://rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk