Sunday, 16 February 2014


Tigers recorded a thoroughly unconvincing 11-8 win against Gloucester at Welford Road courtesy of a late late second half come back.  Coming off the back of a 3 game winless streak at home Tigers were on the verge of slipping to their worst ever home run in competitive fixtures before Mat Tait slid over in the 68th minute to make it 8 all and Toby Flood slotted a 77th minute penalty to secure the win.

Before the match Tigers injury curse struck again; this time it was the fans stricken as I had to miss my first home game through illness or injury since Bristol in the 2002 Play Off Quarter Finals with what can only be described as a mashed up ankle.

The conditions were perfect for running rugby as blue skies shone over Leicestershire, in stark contrast to the howling winds we've had all week.  Neither side was capable of playing the rugby the conditions deserved as Leicester bumbled their way through the vast majority of the match.  Ed Slater will be disappointed with two notable knock ons but he was by no means alone as most of the pack had at least one fumble during the opening period.

Gloucester created two chances but were scuppered by knock ons as the line went begging.  Tigers had reams of possession and decent territory but were singularly unable to retain either and play the pressure game that is the Tigers hallmark.

The scrum however was always a source of comfort.  Just like last year Gloucester were unable to to cope with the Tigers power and technique as Marcos Ayerza had a field day against Sila Puafisi then Rupert Harden.  The scrum provided the first penalty of the match.  It took three re-sets but the Gloucester tight five simply couldn't take the pressure; second row Elliot Stooke was spat out the side before Dean Richards awarded the penalty.

6 minutes later Gloucester leveled; Mike Tindall isolated Julian Salvi after the Australian was forced onto the back foot clearing up Kitchener's poor attempt at a catch.  Tindall was on his feet and Salvi was ruled to be holding on.

At half time Tigers just needed to be more precise; the territory was there and Gloucester's defence was fraying around the edges.  The vast majority of wounds were self inflicted so could be easily rectified by better execution.

But that never really came.  

Matt Smith made a fabulous break after a Tigers lineout but couldn't find the pass to keep the move alive.  Flood was then caught in possession by Tongan tighthead Puafisi and knocked on in the tackle.

Tigers were incredibly unlucky to have a try ruled out in the 48th minute; it was Salvi and Tindall at the centre again as the Gloucester man's fumble let Salvi in under the posts.  Referee Dean Richards had other ideas though as mysteriously the flanker was ruled off side.  BT Sport did not deign to replay the incident even once so it is rather difficult to say whether this crucial 7 point swing was justified.

Just 3 minutes latter and the swing was amplified when Gloucester scored their loan try.  A poor lineout win was followed by a poor box kick giving Gloucester possession.  Unlike the Tigers they held on to it, eventually isolating Tom Youngs on the wing against Henry Trinder.  Youngs will be disappointed with his attempted tackle but the try was made by a magic flick behind the back by Martyn Thomas that put Charlie Sharples over.

The pressure was really cranking up now as Tigers looked into the abyss of 4 games winless at home.  Robson cleared the kick off into the 22 and Tigers were choke tackled into a turnover.  The scrum was the saviour once again.  If we could pass like we scrummage we would be favourites for the European Cup, but if we scrummaged like we passed we'd be looking at a relegation dog fight.

Gloucester were looking more dangerous now as Kalamafone then Sharples broke through the Tigers line, in contrast Tigers single foray into the 22 was snuffed out after Waldrom ran up a blind alley away from his support and was turned over.

Mike Tindall was pinged for a dangerous high tackle on Ben Youngs, and was lucky to not see a card, as the Tigers scrum half broke dangerously from a loose ball in midfield.  From the penalty Tigers sent it deep into the Gloucester 22 and secured the lineout ball.  Mulipola and Goneva came crashing through the middle going left towards the old Members side, Waldrom was the next wave of attacking coming back right drawing in the Gloucester defence as he ran across the posts. Flood and Tait switched round to the Crumbie side to create an overlap and the Cherry 'n' White defence was at sixes and sevens as Tom Youngs and Flood held their lines to put Tait scampering through for the try.

Relief was short lived.  Flood skewed his conversion wide right.

Tigers were rampant now.  Blaine Scully rose majestically to claim the restart and David Mele, on for Youngs after the try, flung it wide.  Allen stepped inside his man to free Goneva and Tigers were racing into the Gloucester half.  With Goneva, Tait and Thompstone frankly Tigers should have finished the score there and then but both Goneva and Tait passed too early allowing Ben Morgan to make the covering tackle.

Flood was through the defence this time but couldn't find Waldrom lurking on his inside shoulder.  It went wide right but Goneva and Mulipola showed this rare burst of fluency and purpose was not going to last, butchering a great chance.  

Goneva again was responsible for the knock on from Tigers next lineout move but I feel Richard Cockerill might not mind this one so much.  Gloucester had the put in, with their scrum suffering heavy pressure and going backwards at a rate of knots Dan Robson panicked; there had not been a feeding given all day, what chance one now?  "I'll just make extra sure and we can clear our lines" he must have thought.  

But touchjudge Luke Pearce, responsible for an atrocious game between Quins and Wasps last week so relegated to the touchline, was vigilant and spotted the Gloucester 9's attempted skull duggery.

On TV afterwards Lawrence Dallaglio was scathing of this decision, seemingly on the grounds it was given to Tigers.

With the put in now in the Tigers favour the result felt inevitable but it still required some doing.  The first scrum was given as a reset but at the second attempt Yann Thomas couldn't take the pressure and swung his hips out and around.  Penalty Tigers.  3 Points Tigers.

Tigers had to hold out one last panicked attack from Gloucester but that was snuffed out when Blaine Scully claimed Ryan Mills's crossfield kick in heavy traffic, calling a mark and clearing his lines.

A win is a win they say but Tigers have been repeating that motto all too often this season.  Another unconvincing win keeps us in the hunt but only just.  With 3 home games, including Saracens who we haven't beaten at home in three attempts, and 5 away games left they will have to improve significantly to retain our title.  This game perhaps had the seeds of that; had we got the early try we would have been confident and away from Gloucester.  We certainly showed glimpses of what could be, especially once we get Manu Tuilagi back in the next fortnight, but glimpses aren't enough; we need full frontal exposure.  Starting next Sunday at the Madejski.

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