Leicester Tigers scored a second successive bonus-point win at Welford Road as they beat Gloucester Rugby 34-16 on Saturday.
After a bonus-point win over Harlequins in the final home game of 2018, Tigers opened the doors on home ground for the first time in 2019 in the 223rd meeting with one of their oldest rivals.
Jonny May’s ninth try of the season and eight points from the boot of George Ford gave Tigers a cracking start as they led 13-0 before Gloucester claimed their first points from the kicking tee and the home side still led 13-6 at the break.
Jonah Holmes provided a vital score at the start of the second half, capitalising on some efficient work in possession across the field as the lead reached 20-6, but the visitors stayed in the hunt with a score from Gareth Evans until further scores from May and Ford in the middle portion of the second half finally put the Tigers out of reach .
Owen Williams was among five former Leicester in the Gloucester ranks, while Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy brought Tatafu Polota-Nau, Will Evans and Mike Williams into the forward pack and welcomed back Greg Bateman from injury and Kyle Eastmond from a ban as the teams launched the second half of the league season.
Gloucester boss Johan Ackermann made a late change to his line-up with Matt Banahan called up to replace Ollie Thorley on the wing and Tom Seabrook taking the vacant spot on the bench.
Ford kicked off with Tigers facing the Robin Hood Stand end and within three minutes he put his side ahead with a penalty from the centre of the Gloucester 22 after a rampaging run from Graham Kitchener had been stopped illegally.
Kitchener then disrupted lineout ball as the visitors gained their first attacking opportunity and they made a series of impressive charges through the forwards which were met with committed defence before referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty to Tigers on their own five-metre line.
Ford then kicked Tigers into a promising position on the right as the game continued at a frenetic pace and, although Gloucester stood up in defence, they did give away scrum advantage with a knock-on in contact. The set-piece brought a penalty award but Tigers kept playing and eventually created space on the right for May to score against his former club.
The skipper judged his conversion kick from the touchline to perfection to increase the lad to 10-0 with just over 10 minutes played.
Although Tigers missed their man from an attacking lineout, aggressive defence kept the visitors pinned back and Williams had to clear left-footed from deep inside his own in-goal area.
Polota-Nau had to leave the field on 128 minutes after taking a heavy knock early on and replacement Jake Kerr was immediately into the battle as he carried strongly in midfield and Gloucester were penalised again on the floor. Ford took on the kick from a central position just short of the 10-metrre line and made it 13-0 with the 100th successful penalty of his T9gers career.
Referee Barnes raised his arm the other way from the restart and Billy Twelvetrees got Gloucester off the mark with the kick from 25 metres as play entered the second quarter.
Two impressive carries from Kitchener in a flowing move looked promising for Tigers, but he then lost control of the ball just 15 metres out and the visitors gladly cleared upfield.
Tigers were good value for the lead at that point, but Gloucester showed their desire to attack from deep whenever they could win turnover ball. One such opportunity gave Williams the chance to hammer a penalty down into Tigers territory on the Gloucester right but they could not make any further progress.
Kerr ended their next threatening attack as he got over breakdown ball and earned a penalty on his own 22-metre line.
Mike Williams gave Tigers some go-forward in the centre of the field but ball broke loose and play restarted with a Gloucester scrum and they worked hard up front to take play up to Tigers territory before eventually being held up over the line as Genge blocked No8 Ben Morgan.
Play came back for a penalty in front of the posts and Twelvetrees kicked it to bring the score to 13-6 with half-time just moments away.
Gloucester went to attack from deep as the second half restarted without any changes to the line-ups, but an ambitious ball in midfield brought only a knock-on and Tigers had put-in at the first set-piece of the period.
The breakthrough came just three minutes later as Tigers recycled ball quickly and Holmes read a perfect line on to an inside pass from Toomua to score to the left of the posts. Ford added the extras to make it 20-6 on 46 minutes.
Olowofela, though, had to look sharp in defence as Sharples threatened following good work on the ball from skipper Morgan.
Sharples tried again through the middle as Gloucester looked to break free but Ford followed him and brought him down still 40 metres out and when the Gloucester wing went from deep inside his own half moments later, the covering defence closed in and forced an error to have put-in at another scrum.
Eastmond was re-introduced to the action as Toomua left the field, but it was the visitors who enjoyed cleaner possession as they looked to fight their way back into the game from 14 points down.
But their ambition proved their failing on 53 minutes when a mix-up in midfield gave Tigers ball and Eastmond quickly combined with Ben Youngs to send May clear for his second try of the day and double figures for the season.
But Gloucester replied in an instant with flanker Gareth Evans breaking clear from 20 metres out to dive in next to the posts and Twelvetrees chipped the extras to bring it back to 27-13.
An ankle tap from Kalamafoni prevented a repeat from Evans before \Kitchener read an offload to regain ball in defence. But Gloucester kept coming as the pace increased again.
A superb catch on the run from Tom Hudson had Tigers backpedalling before they closed the door and then ambitious play from May and Youngs looked to turn defence into attack but the pass from the scrum-half just failed to find support on the left touchline and gave Gloucester the chance to build phases on possession once more,
Twelvetrees chipped away at the deficit with a penalty on the hour to make it 27-16, with Tigers welcoming back Bateman on the restart.
May made a timely interceptyion in defence and must have thought he was on to a hat-trick as he broke clear. But Gloucester raced back and, although he was stopped 340 metres outm, Tigers retained ball until Ford wriggled free of the last tackler on the right to dive in for a bonus-point score.
The England fly-half calmly added the conversion as the score reached 34-16.
Play continued to flow from end to end as Gloucester set up a lineout drive in the right-hand corner. Tigers, though, wrapped up their drive and were rewarded with a scrum put-in as the clock approached the final 10 minutes of an entertaining encounter.
A strong scrum brought a penalty on halfway and Ford had little hesitation in taking play up to the left-hand corner. The forwards claimed good ball as they kept play near the tryline until Holmes and Tuilagi threatened out wide. There was no way though, however, but it was Gloucester’s turn to find it hard to break out.
Morgan still served as a willing carrier for Gloucester and almost provided an opening in the centre of the field before his team were halted by a forward pass. The resultant scrum brought a whistle in favour of the Tigers
After patience in attack through the forwards, Olowofela dived in on the left to dot down one-handed. But, with Tigers expecting the try award, referee Barnes said no after checking with the Television Match Official. Play came back and restarted with a Gloucester scrum five metres out but hat was the final opportunity as Tigers closed out the win.