Leicester Tigers recorded a first away win of the Gallagher Premiership season with a 20-14 triumph over Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday.
It was a first league win on the team’s travels since April 2019 and put Tigers ahead in an historic rivalry with the Cherry and Whites for the first time.
Tries in the first half from Tom Youngs and Dan Kelly, both from lineout drives, gave Tigers a 15-7 lead at the interval in pursuit of a first Kingsholm victory since September 2016 and a seasonal double over the Cherry and Whites.
Gloucester responded with the opening score of the second period before Harry Wells touched down his team’s third of the day, though the visitors had to dig deep to withstand some late attacks from the hosts and take the four points.
Youngs and Dan Cole were the only survivors from the team’s last win at Kingsholm, on the opening day of the 2016/17 Premiership season when four tries in the final half-hour overturned a 31-point deficit on the way to a 38-31 victory.
On a bright but cold and breezy afternoon, Henry got the game started and both teams felt their way into it with play concentrated in the area within 20 metres of halfway and the unpredictable wind playing its part.
Freddie Steward looked impressive under early kicks, particularly in preventing a George Barton penalty on the left from reaching touch, and Kelly provided the first opening, linking well with Matias Moroni down the right before Gloucester were penalised in defence.
When the whistle went again, Tigers almost capitalised with points on the board, but referee Adam Leal and TMO Geoff Warren could not determine a clear picture of the ball being grounded from a lineout drive.
A run of four penalties in the opposite direction gave Gloucester decent field position on their left and eventually, with referee Leal signalling advantage again, they created an overlap for the opening score on 18 minutes.
It was Santiago Carreras who dived in for the try, the Argentinian who had been a late switch from wing to full-back after the withdrawal of Kyle Moyle. Barton’s touchline conversion made it 7-0.
But they were to be the hosts’ only points of the first half as Tigers got on top in the second quarter.
A run from Hanro Liebenberg, back from a two-match ban, took play to within 15 metres of the Gloucester line in response, showing two dummies out wide, and moments later the back-rower was back on the ball to set up the try for skipper Youngs.
First, a scrum penalty allowed Tigers to go to the right-and corner and, after Liebenberg secured lineout ball, Youngs got back on to the ball to finish the drive to the line and score his fourth try of the season. Henry’s conversion was not the prettiest but did add the extras to level the scores.
Keeping Gloucester pinned back, Cyle Brink carried well in the centre of the field and then a penalty on the left provided the next score as centre Kelly joined the maul to take the final push to the line. Henry’s conversion unfortunately slid just wide with his side 12-7 in front.
A Kini Murimurivalu break on the left posed another threat and Tommy Reffell picked a perfect line through the defence to get Tigers forward again. When Gloucester were penalised in front of the posts, Henry knocked over the kick to stretch the lead before half-time.
Gloucester had already changed two-thirds of their front row before the break but they emerged rom the dressing rooms to claim the opening score of the second period, playing through phases of ball before Slater broke a tackle to score to the left of the posts. Barton’s extras brought them back to within a point at 14-15.
After soaking up some more pressure, Tigers gained ground from a Liebenberg carry at the base of a defensive scrum and then used a penalty award to reach halfway.
Moroni looked sharp in latching on to spilled Gloucester ball and then regathering on their 22 as Tigers got forward again. But after Liebenberg and Kobus van Wyk exchanged passes on the right, play was stopped for a knock-on.
Nephi Leatigaga, on as a replacement, made his presence felt with two strong carries as Tigers showed some composure in possession and it paid off as Wells picked up at a ruck to force his way over the line. Henry hooked the low kick wide with Tigers 20-14 in front.
The big Samoan then showed his strength in defence, having two bites at a breakdown before gaining a penalty on the floor to relieve some pressure.
Tigers found themselves back in defence when Gloucester counter-rucked on their 10-metre line and then Steward was adjudged to have knocked-on and he fielded their clearing kick. But before the scrum could set, the TMO informed the referee that he had not touched the ball, giving Tigers put-in at the restart instead.
Van Wyk was penalised for a high tackle as he rushed out of the defensive line near the right touchline but with just five minutes remaining, Barton over-it his kick beyond the tryline and play came back for a scrum with put-in for the visitors.
But the whistle went against Tigers, who were then marched back, and had another set-piece to defend. This time, as Gloucester got set, the defence stood firm and wrapped up ball five metres out.
The scrum provided messy ball with both teams piling men into contact and Tigers then lost possession again to give Gloucester a scrum with the clock in the red. But they pack timed its push to perfection to knock their rivals back and finally bring the last whistle of the day.