Kingsholm was a house of horrors for the trick or treating Tigers as they came up 6 points short of making it 5 in a row against the Cherry and Whites. A near ten minute goal line siege was withstood and the final score was 27-21 in favour of the home side. Ben Youngs withdrew in the warm up because of a tight hamstring and his replacement Sam Harrison had an afternoon to forget.
It is harsh to say that was the difference but the awesome foursome of Youngs-Flood-Allen-Tuilagi is undefeated domestically and Ben Youngs would certainly have made more of the impetus provided by a dominant pack. The lack of any breaking game really hampers Harrison as the defence can just shift off him straight away and pressurise the rest of the backline.
Freddie Burns was the maestro for Gloucester and his two elegant chips fractured the Tigers defence. The first was after only 50 seconds when a short side grubber allowed Charlie Sharples to outpace and outwit both Steve Mafi and Scott Hamilton to score in the corner. The second was a combination of terrific skill and great awareness. As Gloucester’s forwards rolled round the corner Sam Harrison and Toby Flood both went to fill in gaps in the defensive line, leaving no one sweeping in behind, Burns exploited the space with an outstanding chip and gather to stroll untouched under the posts.
Manu Tuilagi was at his powerful best, none more so than when giving the scoring pass for Tigers first try, it is a crying shame that he’s surely to miss the derby next week in preparation for the Fiji test.
Questions have to be asked of Cockerill’s use of his bench, Harrison was mixed at best whilst Tom Youngs was struggling badly at the lineout. With JC going off with a “stinger” there was an opportunity in the second half to switch Tom Youngs to the flank, keeping his brilliant round the field contribution, but have George Chuter’s calming experience at the lineout. With one eye on next week too Chuter has barely featured this season and it will be a tough ask for him to come straight in from the cold.
Cockerill should, however, be credited with playing Cole for the whole game. Cole is quickly becoming THE tighthead, not just in Leicester but Britain as he is sure to be the Lions choice on this kind of form. It also helps keeping Castro fresh as he will be required next week when Lancaster is sure to demand that Cole rests.
One plus of having 4 locks on the pitch was a huge push from the scrum. The force from the flankers-cum-locks was the difference as Tigers pack crushed the Gloucester 8 to win a penalty try, which in the final reckoning earned the losing bonus point. However the lack of an openside hurt as Tigers could apply very little pressure on the Gloucester ruck and the lack of mobility in the wide open spaces was exploited by James Simpson-Daniel as he set up the third try for Gloucester’s Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera. As England found out under Jack Rowell the positives of picking a huge backrow are massively outweighed by the negatives.
On Halloween it is usually the visitors who get the treats but this time Tigers just didn’t have enough tricks up their sleeve to give Gloucester a fright and take the 4 points.