Gloucester United outmuscle Leicester to top their A League division
GLOUCESTER UNITED 38 LEICESTER A 34
OUTSCORED five tries to four – but outmuscled? Not on your life.
This United side recorded a third-straight win this term, to stride top of the A League Northern Division.
A crunch clash with Northampton Wanderers at Kingsholm on October 15 now looks likely to determine who will progress to the A League semi-finals.
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Gloucester travel to the North East to take on Newcastle Falcons on Monday, October 1, before that Northampton clash will decide the division.
Andrew Stanley and Rob Thirlby’s United side once again dominated the scrum, the lineout and much of the tight exchanges.
Leicester wound up blasting in five tries to Gloucester’s four – but by the time the try-count switched to the visitors’ favour, United were already just about home and dry.
Drew Locke, Billy Burns and Steph Reynolds crossed for Gloucester, who bulldozed a scrum to a penalty try too, to secure a bonus-point victory.
Two tries from former London Irish flanker Richard Thorpe, and scores for Javiah Pohe and Henry Purdy were enough to allow Leicester to salvage two points – both a losing and a try bonus.
Once again Gloucester’s young lock duo of Elliott Stooke and Will Graulich offered serious grunt, with Yann Thomas and Tommaso D’Apice impressive in the front-row.
Tim Taylor’s 18 points with the boot proved crucial in the event, Tim Molenaar produced another muscular display, and Drew Locke looked sharp too.
Gloucester forced the issue from the off with a fine lineout catch and drive, but could not gain advantage when Taylor’s grubber bobbled dead.
The fly-half slotted the penalty in hand though, to give the home side an early lead.
Taylor doubled his penalty tally three minutes later, when Leicester failed to roll away in midfield after a strong carry from Tim Molenaar.
United refused to allow Leicester to settle, and returning centre Locke exchanged passes with Ian Clark to cut home for the game’s opening try.
Taylor’s conversion pushed Gloucester’s advantage up to 13-0 – and then, finally, Leicester started to exert some influence.
Gloucester came under pressure for the first time after conceding two-straight penalties, to allow Leicester a lineout deep in the home 22.
The Tigers set the maul and set themselves for the roll, but the Cherry and Whites held firm.
And when lock Rob Andrew hit the line in midfield, he was hauled down smartly – allowing Matt Cox forced a fine penalty, the Tigers lock refusing to release in the tackle.
Gloucester hit back straight away, squeezing Leicester by pumping a deep kick right into the left corner.
The Tigers tried a quick throw, but knocked on in midfield.
And from the scrum Gloucester obliterated the visiting eight.
United won a penalty try, converted by Taylor, to stretch their lead to 20-0.
Matt Cornwell’s penalty at the start of the second quarter allowed Leicester a note on the scoreboard.
Academy and Hartpury wing Steph Reynolds’ telling break brought about Gloucester’s third try, finished off by full-back Billy Burns.
The younger brother of first team fly-half Freddie looks increasingly assured every time he pulls on that cherry and white shirt.
After Reynolds’ burst, Locke cut back inside but then threw out a loose pass – but Burns was on hand to slide onto the loose ball, jump to his feet and blast home.
Leicester were not about to let the score drift any further though, and struck back with a try through centre Pohe, to cut the Gloucester lead to 25-8.
The visitors sustained that pressure after the score, desperate to clamber their way back into the contest.
And with double penalty advantage being played, scrum-half Brad Field cynically killed Leicester’s chances of moving the ball from a ruck on his own line.
There was no option for referee Andrew Taylerson other than to send Field to the stands for ten minutes in the sin-bin.
Leicester wasted their penalty though, trying an ambitious cross-field chip that was never likely to come off.
So the home side sneaked through to half-time without conceding further.
Leicester were quick to make their advantage pay after the turnaround though, Thorpe finishing off a drive to open the half.
The Tigers sustained their pressure, but failed with three raids into the Gloucester 22.
The end of that third charge saw Field’s return to action after his yellow card.
And the nine was straight into the action, retrieving a chip after a quick-tap free-kick, to set the move in motion that allowed Reynolds to dart home.
That was the bonus-point try for Gloucester, and Taylor converted from the touchline to boot.
It ought to have been the catalyst for the home side to wrap up the match – but that never happens against Leicester, whatever the level.
Wing Purdy grabbed Leicester’s third try, and Cornwell’s conversion brought the scores to 32-20.
Gloucester powered another maul into the Leicester 22 next, forcing a penalty that Taylor slotted to extend the home lead to 15.
After a frenetic passage of play Leicester scored again, to even the try-count up at four apiece.
Flanker Thorpe grabbed his second score of the game, taking a neat inside ball from Andrew Symonds.
The conversion took Leicester back within eight points, and there was still more drama at the death.
Taylor slotted his fourth and final penalty with the game’s penultimate play, and that should have been enough to see Gloucester home without any further ado.
But straight from the restart Leicester recovered possession and pressed hard, with aggressive lock Andrew barrelling home.
The conversion brought Leicester within four points of the home side – but that was full-time.
Topsy-turvy in the extreme, but Gloucester edged home to top the A League Northern Division table.
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Locke (9), Penalty (16), B Burns (32), Reynolds (54). Cons: Taylor 3 (9, 16, 54). Pens: Taylor 4 (4, 7, 65, 80).
LEICESTER: Tries: Pohe (33), Thorpe 2 (44, 77), Purdy (59), Andrew (80). Cons: Cornwell 3 (59, 77, 80) Pens: Cornwell (22).
GLOUCESTER: Field (40).
GLOUCESTER: Billy Burns, Steph Reynolds, Drew Locke, Tim Molenaar, Ian Clark, Tim Taylor, Brad Field, Yann Thomas, Tommaso D’Apice, Dario Chistolini, Will Graulich, Elliott Stooke, Pete Buxton (capt), Matt Cox, Gareth Evans. Replacements (all used): Nico Woodward, James Gibbons, Henry Sandys, Ross Moriarty, Rob Langley, Grant Hancox, Kai Done, Liam Gallaher.
LEICESTER: Alex Lewington, Henry Purdy, Andrew Symons, Javiah Pohe, Rhys Williams, Matt Cornwell (capt), Scott Steele, Jonny Harris, Jimmy Stevens, Fraser Balmain, Rob Andrew, Joe Cain, Brett Deacon, Richard Thorpe, Michael Noone. Replacements (all used): Harry Thacker, Kieran Brookes, Ryan Bower, Harry Wells, Lucas Guillame, Wessel Joost, Harrison Lee-Everton, Tom Bellak.
REFEREE: Andrew Taylerson.