Burns moves from blooper reel to master class
SPORTING trademarks are worthless unless they typify all the positive points of their subject.
Two weeks ago Mike Tindall warned Freddie Burns his own classic characteristic was under threat.
Gloucester's player-backs coach produced a bloopers reel documenting each time this season Burns had tried his favourite trick – to no avail.
It was a lowlights package with a point – if you try the audacious, you'd better pull it off.
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To persevere with the chip and chase without success would eventually render it redundant.
Tindall made his point in no uncertain terms – but such is Burns' confidence, it only redoubled his resolve.
So against perhaps the toughest opposition of all, Burns rubber-stamped his trademark all over Kingsholm.
It was impressive enough that his defence-turning grubber set Charlie Sharples home for Gloucester's opening try in a flowing move straight from kick-off.
But in summoning all his bullish bravado to chip his way to the second score, Burns provided a virtuoso flourish of entirely different quality.
"I might just whack that try on the big screen and play it on a loop to Tinds this week," joked the delighted 22-year-old Gloucester fly-half.
"Tinds spent that analysis session the other week making a very valid point: that it's important to have threats like that, but it's more important to pick the right time to pull them out.
"It was a great victory for us. We scored some good tries but we also produced a lot of grit."
Resilience – the early watchword of the Nigel Davies era – underpinned another impressive victory.
A try for Sharples in his 100th Gloucester game, the Burns chip show and a score for redoubtable Fijian Akapusi Qera provided the flair.
But the way Gloucester negotiated nine minutes with 13 men and no scrum-half unearthed volumes on rugby director Davies' coaching skills.
The Cherry and Whites have lacked first-class rugby nous at times in the last few years.
On Saturday the Kingsholm men employed extreme savvy to run down the clock every which way, while Jimmy Cowan and Rob Cook were in the sin-bin.
All Black Cowan killed the ball mere metres from his own tryline, before full-back Cook batted a cross-field kick into touch illegally, to deny Leicester wing Vereniki Goneva a score.
With both men absent, the Tigers produced all-out assault on the Gloucester 22, as the final quarter gripped a compelled Kingsholm.
The visitors plundered a fully-warranted penalty try, as the Gloucester scrum dissolved.
But then the Cherry and Whites set about ensuring as little else as possible happened in that stretch with 13 men.
Taking time between lineouts, meticulously ensuring the correct set-up for scrums. If the clock was ticking, Gloucester were milking it – but never outlandishly or with disrespect.
And the home side even produced a fine set of tight one-out drives around a series of rucks, keeping play purposely pared-back in Cowan's absence.
It is the kind of nous that Leicester are famed for. The Tigers admitted grudging respect for the tactic in post-match debriefs, and there can be no greater compliment.
The afternoon had the perfect Gloucester start when Sharples profited from Burns' fine grubber.
Leicester pounced quickly enough though, Kiwi wing Scott Hamilton squeezing into the right corner after a fine break from the muscular Manu Tuilagi.
Then came that Burns try, a moment of individual brilliance fit to decide any contest.
Two more half-chances went unconverted as Gloucester turned around with the slight nag they were one try light.
All that changed when Qera romped home with fist aloft.
The Fijian flanker might have provided the finish, but James Simpson-Daniel created the score.
Extolling the peerless wing's myriad virtues is almost a full-time job in itself.
The 30-year-old produced a scything counter-attack to stun the Tigers.
Sinbad initially set off into midfield from the left flank, but quickly darted back out wide.
His improbable quick-fire direction change left the Tigers kick-chasers floundering.
In a flash Simpson-Daniel was upon the last defender, with a posse of team-mates at each shoulder.
And Qera gleefully gobbled up the scoring pass.
At this point many opponents would have folded, but the steely Leicester men struck back.
The ragged home side made far too many mistakes in a nervy final quarter, inviting pressure onto themselves through both sloppy clearances and loose lineout work.
But the sheer will to win was remarkable, and every miniscule Tigers error in the final throes was greeted with raptures from raucous Kingsholm.
The two yellow cards, the penalty try, umpteen driven lineouts in the Gloucester 22: Leicester had all the territory and possession.
Streetwise, shrewd and zealous though: if the chip and chase is Burns' trademark, Gloucester might think about copyrighting the Davies resilience.
The Gloucester boss said his squad's favourite buzzword is adaptability, but that undersells it.
The Premiership is all about survival of the sharpest and Gloucester are evolving pretty rapidly.
LEICESTER TIGERS: G Murphy, S Hamilton, M Tuilagi, A Allen, V Goneva, T Flood, S Harrison, L Mulipola (M Ayerza, 37), T Youngs, D Cole, L Deacon, G Parling, S Mafi, T Waldrom, J Crane (E Slater, 19). Unused: G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni, G Kitchener, P Phibbs, G Ford, M Smith.
REFEREE: JP Doyle.