dealt Gloucester yet another cruel hand at Watford.
At the start of the season Gloucesterís first Zurich League fixture
was at Vicarage Road. On that occasion the Cherry and Whites were
ravaged by injuries.
On this occasion at the end of a disappointing league campaign Gloucesterís
sick list again paid a crucial part in the result of this match.
The pace of Chris Catling, Tom Beim, Robert Todd, Joe Ewens, and the
redoubtable Trevor Woodman were all missing from the Heineken Cup
semi-final because of injury.
Their replacements gave their all in a genuine Gloucester team effort
of true grit which almost scaled the heights to come so agonisingly
close to toppling the Zurich Premiership League champions But you
couldnít help wonder of the outcome, if Gloucester, like their opponents,
had been at full strength?
The cruellest blow came when Leicester scored the only try of a robust
and bruising but entertaining encounter. The circumstances which led
to the vital score were given a bizarre twist by French referee Joel
Dume. Leicesterís Graham Rowntree made an obvious knock-on. The referee
duly signalled advantage to Gloucester as Leicesterís Tim Stimpson
gathered a loose kick ahead.
What advantage that was to Gloucester heaven only knows, but instead
of blowing up for the offence, Mr Dume allowed played to continue.
Whilst Gloucester paused, waiting for the whistle to blow, Stimpson
made a searing run up-field before Leon Lloyd finished the move off
for a soft try under the posts. Some advantage!
A bitter blow for Gloucester but an absolute God-send for the Tigers.
Much vaunted Champions Leicester did not play well, they were not
allowed to. But they still scraped the vital win, thanks to solid
defence and an element of good fortune.
Gloucester were given no chance of winning by all and sundry who forecast
a rout. But the Cherry and Whites went on to produce a performance
which belied much of what has gone before them this season.
made a rousing start and Leicester infringed as cynically as ever
and were punished as Simon Mannix slotted his first penalty.
Gloucester ruled the mid-field but unfortunately much of the line-out
was a costly disaster, losing out five or six times on their own throw.
The first half was finely poised until the controversial incident
which led to the Leicester try and their advantage at half time with
the score 16-9.
In the second half the makeshift Gloucester team came more and more
into the game. Terry Fanolua was terrific and made huge dents in the
Tigers defence and although we went very close on several instances
the try was not forthcoming. The pace was fast and furious as James
Simpson-Daniel pulled off two great try saving tackles.
Martin Johnson and Junior Paramore were both sin-binned before Stimpson
put Leicester into a 19 ó12 lead. Gloucester were not finished and
their play gained momentum as space began to open up. Gomarsall had
another good game as did Mannix who slotted another penalty to put
us back within four points of the Tigers. With the fans in full voice
the closing quarter saw Gloucester in full ascendancy. There was a
real sense that only a few more moments were needed to achieve victory.
Top man Ian Jones, always a true class act, stole a Tigers throw at
the end but a try proved to be elusive.
Somehow Leicester survived to deny the Cherry and Whites. Relief for
the Tigers at the final whistle but heartbreak and the agony of defeat
For Gloucester it was great to see such spirit and a united team commitment
that has not been evident this season. The end was emotive with supporters
on their feet, some close to tears, warmly applauding their team who
in turn saluted their loyal fans.
Let us hope that all the officials and players at Kingsholm can now
work together, ignore the moaners and groaners, and build on this
spirit for the future of Gloucester.