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Stunning fightback brings opening-day win

Figure image
Leicester Tigers scored 31-unanswered second-half points as they staged a stunning fightback to secure a 38-31 bonus-point victory over Gloucester Rugby on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership season.

Tigers trailed 31-7 early in the second half after former Henry Purdy crossed for Gloucester’s bonus-point fourth try in front of their own fans.
 
But Tigers, who had scored in the first half through Manu Tuilagi, scored four tries in the final 35 minutes to get their league campaign off to a winning start.
 
JP Pietersen, on his debut, began the fightback before Aviva Man-of-the-Match Sam Harrison finished off a lineout drive to get Tigers back in the hunt.
 
Freddie Burns was kicking beautifully from the tee and his penalty brought Tigers to within a score before Brendon O’Connor’s converted try tied the scores with four minutes remaining. With the tension cranked up, Harrison, who had moved to fly-half, was coolest man in Kingsholm as he finished off another lineout drive for the match-winning score on the final whistle.
 
Tigers gave debuts to summer signings Pietersen on the wing and Luke Hamilton in the back row. The pair became the 249th and 250th players to appear for Tigers in Premiership Rugby.
 
Another summer arrival, hooker George McGuigan, was included among the replacements alongside England international props Dan Cole and Ellis Genge, and scrum-half Ben Youngs.

Club captain Tom Youngs led the team while Harrison started at scrum-half with Freddie Burns at fly-half in direct opposition to younger brother Billy.
 
Tigers were forced to defend in the opening stages as Gloucester went through phase after phase. John Afoa eventually broke the line as he gathered Billy Twelvetrees’ flat pass before being stopped by last-man Mathew Tait. Tigers regrouped and Tom Youngs forced the knock-on with a heavy tackle on Ross Moriarty.
 
But it set the tone for the first half with Gloucester enjoying long periods of possession and pressure.
 
The hosts continued to press on the Tigers 22 but good work by Lachlan McCaffrey won a holding-on penalty and Freddie Burns’s boot took Tigers to halfway.

The Gloucester pressure told with the game’s first try after 11 minutes. Neat hands created space on the left for Twelvetrees to pop a pass for Matt Scott to score. Greg Laidlaw landed the conversion to put Gloucester 7-0 ahead.
 
Tigers hit back immediately. Betham’s charge-down won possession on the Gloucester 22 and Burns slid a clever kick for Pietersen. He was stopped just short but offloaded for the supporting Tuilagi to score Tigers’ first try of the season. Burns converted to bring the scores level.
 
Gloucester retook the lead after 21 minutes. Tigers had a promising position in the Gloucester half but Charlie Sharples intercepted Tait’s pass and had a free run under the posts from 50m. Laidlaw converted.
 
Tuilagi made yards every time he received the ball but his burst into the 22 was ended by another error, this time a knock-on by Ed Slater, eight yards out.
 
Tigers were becoming victims of their own mistakes. First Pietersen knocked-on on the Gloucester 22 and then Tait took a quick throw and was caught on his 22 where he conceded the penalty. Laidlaw landed the three-pointer to move Gloucester 17-7 ahead.
 
The Tigers line survived a huge scare when Tait’s clearance was charged down by Billy Burns, McCaffrey made the covering tackle and Burns’s offload went forward giving Tigers the scrum 5m from their line.
 
But Gloucester crossed for their third try moments later. Moriarty’s overhead pass out of a tackle found Scott on his outside for a lovely score at the right corner. Laidlaw’s extras put Gloucester 24-7 ahead.
 
Tigers looked to respond before half-time and Tait’s break took them deep into the Gloucester 22. However, another handling error, this time by Peter Betham, turned over possession.
 
Tigers made no changes at the break, while former Wales international James Hook came on for Burns for Gloucester.
 
Tigers needed a big start to the half and enjoyed lots of possession in the first few minutes. However, a handling mistake was punished with a bonus-point fourth try for the hosts as Purdy swooped down the left and evaded Telusa Veainu’s desperate tackle to score behind the posts. Laidlaw’s conversion moved Gloucester 31-7 ahead and Tigers were staring down the barrel.
 
Tigers gave themselves a foothold with a try shortly after the restart. Burns made the break down the left and found Pietersen on his outside for a score on his debut. Burns added the extras to cut the deficit to 31-14.
 
Adam Thompstone, on as a replacement for Veainu, was invited to test his pace by Burns’s chip into the corner. He won the race and dotted down despite being tackled without the ball. Referee Wayne Barnes consulted his TMO initially over a possible penalty try but play was actually pulled back for a Gloucester penalty as the winger was ruled in front of the ball when Burns kicked.
 
The introduction of Cole and Genge from the bench gave Tigers some real bite, and their defensive work won a penalty on halfway that Burns put into the corner.
 
Gloucester were penalised at three successive lineouts and had Matt Kvesic sent to the bin. Tigers forced their way over at the fourth time of asking, Harrison finishred off the drive for their third try. Burns’s conversion left Tigers 31-21 behind with 24 minutes left.

Tigers then won a scrum penalty close to halfway and Burns landed a huge kick to bring Tigers to within seven points

McGuigan came on for his debut and Graham Kitchener replaced Dom Barrow midway through the half.

Tigers were on top after scoring 17 unanswered points but the Gloucester backs continued to pose a threat.

But it was the work of Slater to win a penalty that gave Tigers field position back in the Gloucester 22. The hosts were again whistled at the maul and when Tigers set up a second drive Genge put a foot in touch as he dived for the line.

McCaffrey’s hack ahead had Gloucester back-pedalling and it needed the fingertips of full-back Tom Marshall to beat Thompstone to the ball in-goal.
 
Ben Youngs came on for Burns for the last 13 minutes with Harrison moving to fly-half. It was all Tigers as they looked for the score that could bring them level. However, Gloucester held firm in the face of huge pressure and eventually won a holding-on penalty on their 22.
 
Hook, the replacement Gloucester fly-half, turned down a kickable penalty to find touch on the Leicester 22, where Tigers stole possession. It proved a pivotal moment.

Tigers took play to the other end where Youngs’s kick sat up perfectly for Pietersen, who fed the supporting O’Connor to score the bonus-point try.
 
Harrison kept his nerve to slot the conversion and level the scores with 2 minutes 45 seconds on the clock.
 
There was a minute left when Harrison's penalty found touch 10m out. Kitchener secured the lineout and once the maul was set there was no stopping the drive. The backs joined in and Harrison finished for his second of the game. Harrison then ran down the clock before landing the conversion with the last kick to end a thrilling contest.

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

GLO 24-7 LEI

FT ScoreFull Time Score

GLO 31-38 LEI

Attendance

14,298

Referee

Wayne Barnes

Gloucester Rugby
Gloucester Rugby
31

Full Time

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
38

Match Stats

Gloucester Rugby
Leicester Tigers
Possession
52%
48%
Territory
51%
49%
Penalties Conceded
10
9
Yellow Cards
1
0
Red Cards
0
0
Tackles Won
109/129 84%
132/152 87%
Lineouts Won
14/14 100%
16/16 100%

Player Stats

Gloucester Rugby
Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
TCDP
15Mathew Tait
14Telusa Veainu
13Peter Betham
12Manu Tuilagi1T
11JP Pietersen1T
103C1P
9Sam Harrison2T2C
1Marcos Ayerza
2Tom Youngs
3Greg Bateman
4Ed Slater
5Dom Barrow
6
7Brendon O'Connor1T
8Lachlan McCaffrey
16George McGuigan
17Ellis Genge
18Dan Cole
19Graham Kitchener
20Will Evans
21Ben Youngs
22Matt Smith
23Adam Thompstone

Opposition Lineup

Starting XV

15
Tom Marshall
14
Charlie Sharples
13
Matt Scott
12
Billy Twelvetrees
11
Henry Purdy
10
Billy Burns
9
Greig Laidlaw
1
Yann Thomas
2
Richard Hibbard
3
John Afoa
4
Tom Savage
5
Mariano Galarza
6
Ross Moriarty
7
Matt Kvesic
8
Ben Morgan

Subs

16
Darren Dawidiuk
17
Paddy McAllister
18
Paul Doran-Jones
19
Joe Latta
20
Jacob Rowan
21
Willi Heinz
22
James Hook
23
Gareth Evans

Preview: Ready for the big kick-off

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Leicester Tigers and Gloucester Rugby have the honour of kicking off the new Aviva Premiership season at Kingsholm this evening with a head-to-head history dating back over more than 200 meetings.

Since the first encounter in 1891 – when hosts Gloucester won 15-0 – there have been 216 matches between the old rivals, with Tigers winning 102 to 106 by the Cherry and Whites. This evening’s meeting will be the 106th at Kingsholm, with the visitors chasing a 29th victory there.
 
After an intense period of pre-season preparation and warm-up fixtures over the last three weekends, director of rugby Richard Cockerill says "now we are playing for real.”
 
“Everybody will be glad to see where they actually sit after pre-season – at all the teams,” Cockerill added. “We’re all the same. We’re all hoping we’ve done the right things and are in the right place and we are ready to go. Friday will be the test for that.
 
“Gloucester have a good squad, it will be physical, I think it will be fast. The start to every season is important for everybody.”
 
Both sides announced their line-ups on Thursday lunchtime, with Tigers confirming the return from injury of Freddie Burns who will line up directly opposite younger brother Billy who starts at fly-half for the hosts. Former Tigers centre Billy Twelvetrees and Tigers academy graduate Henry Purdy are also included in the Gloucester team.
 
Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys says his side face “a big year” in the Aviva Premiership after a disappointing eighth-place finish last season.

“This league is so competitive, in any match there can be very little between the two teams, so you always have to perform at your very best,” the former Ireland fly-half said.

“We’re all of the view that we’ve underachieved over the last couple of seasons so this is a big year for us.”

Among Gloucester’s recruits this summer is Scotland international centre Matt Scott, who arrives from Edinburgh.

“Matt brings something very different to what we’ve had with our centres so we’ve just got to find the right combination,” Humphreys said. “With Andy Symons coming in as well alongside Billy Twelvetrees, Mark Atkinson and Henry Trinder, we’ve got some real depth and some real quality in that position.

“We’re delighted with the impact Matt has made and we’re looking forward to seeing how he goes when the season gets under way.”

Referee this evening is Mr Wayne Barnes, in charge of a Premiership fixture for the 171st time.
 
Tonight’s game is scheduled for live TV coverage with BT Sport.
 
Tigers return to home turf in Round 2 when Wasps are the visitors to Welford Road. Kick-off is at 3pm next Saturday (September 10), with Tigers In The Park activities for supporters from 11am. Click here for more information on Tigers In The Park. Or click here to book your match tickets. The Tigers ticket office is also open to personal callers and phone callers on 0116 319 8888 (option 2) from 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday.
 
posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
4
Leicester Tigers
Leicester TigersLEI22140856744512258486466
9
Gloucester Rugby
Gloucester RugbyGLO227213533537-461646846
Form Guide
Form
WLWDD
Last Match
Draw with Worcester Warriors null-null
Past Meeting
Lost 14-20
Form
Last Match
Past Meeting
Form
WLWLW
Last Match
Beat Wasps 38-31
Past Meeting
Won 20-14

Matchday Live

Gloucester Rugby31
Gloucester Rugby
Leicester Tigers38
Leicester Tigers
Full Time