Leicester Tigers got the new Gallagher Premiership season off to a winning start with a 38-15 bonus-point victory over Gloucester Rugby at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday.
A first try for the club by Kobus Van Wyk and a debut score for Richard Wigglesworth, either side of a touchdown from Tom Youngs, provided a solid platform for Tigers who led 19-3 after 25 minutes.
They led 22-8 at half-time but saw that cut back to just seven points before Zack Henry added a couple of penalties and then Charlie Clare supplied the bonus-point try in the final five minutes of the game to put the verdict beyond doubt.
The result not only brought five points to kick off the season, but also levelled the historic rivalry with Gloucester on 109 wins each over nearly 130 years of matches.
Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick, starting his first full season at the club, gave debuts to Wigglesworth and Jasper Wiese in the starting line-up, with Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and Cyle Brink also making their bow from the bench.
Gloucester, in an all-white change kit, got the game started, but it was Tigers who made the first attacking effort, taking play into the right-hand corner before spilling ball as they attempted a drive for the tryline.
The visitors then stole Tigers lineout ball in a promising position and immediately swung play to the opposite end where Lewis Ludlow found room on the right before Guy Porter covered across and forced an error as the visitors tried to recycle just five metres out.
But Tigers recovered from that scare to go in front with two tries in five minutes.
Both started at set-piece, the first at a scrum just five metres from their own tryline and the second from lineout pressure at the opposite end.
Van Wyk finished the first opening, which started with Harry Potter’s break on the blindside from the defensive scrum, and as play moved across the field, the use of penalty advantage allowed Zack Henry to spread play for Jaco Taute and Van Wyk to break free, with the wing providing the run-in.
Then, on 12 minutes, with three penalties going against Gloucester close to their own tryline, Tigers maintained pressure with their lineout drive until skipper Youngs provided the finish.
Henry was wide with the second conversion after a smart success from Van Wyk’s score as Tigers moved 12 points in front
Gloucester sensed an opportunity to reply with a lineout drive of their own but, after building phases up front, Tommy Reffell capitalised on some strong defensive work to get over the ball and hear the referee’s whistle in his favour with the tryline intact.
Danny Cipriani put a kick into the Tigers 22 on the left -hand side from a penalty award and, when the referee blew for offside, Billy Twelvetrees kicked the visitors’ opening points with 22 minutes on the clock.
Wigglesworth then celebrated a debut score after play opened up on the left and Potter kicked on just as Gloucester covered to tackle, with the scrum-half following play perfectly to pick up and score. Henry’s conversion made it 19-3.
There was a pause in play for Ludlow to receive treatment and then be replaced after a blow to the head as he tracked Freddie Steward’s catch from a Joe Simpson kick.
As play restarted, Tigers took play upfield and Henry added a penalty kick to stretch the lead.
But Gloucester provided an instant reply, keeping ball alive on their left for hooker Hanson to force his way over. The conversion from Twelvetrees bounced back off the post with the deficit down to 14 points at the break.
Ryan Bower joined the Tigers front row in the opening moments after the restart after injury to Facundo Gigena and he straight into action as the game restarted with a scrum deep in Gloucester territory.
Contact in the air as Steward fielded another kick gave Tigers a penalty on the right touchline and Wiese carried twice in attack before Gloucester closed out the chance and quickly capitalised by creating an opening for Simpson to score to the right of the posts. The conversion made it 22-15.
Brink made his debut as a replacement for Reffell as Charlie Clare joined the Tigers front row with half an hour still to play.
Wiese showed his carrying strength again as Tigers got forward on halfway and Dan Cole chased down Simpson as he fielded a box-kick which brought a knock-on and a scrum in Tigers’ favour 25 metres out. Gloucester were penalised at the set-piece and Henry called for the tee to make it 25-15.
Steward made a superb catch from a towering Woodward kick as Tigers set the platform for a succession of phases on the ball in Gloucester territory, but failed to find an opening before fine work at a driving maul from a lineout provided another chance with set-piece on the left.
The visitors were warned when penalised again and Freddie Clarke was yellow carded, though his short-handed team-mates managed to keep out another Tigers drive for the line.
With the game into its final quarter, Gloucester attempted to play out from deep, only to be met by good defence and two more penalties, the second of which gave Henry a chance from 25 metres to make it 28-15.
But Gloucester had a penalty of their own as the game restarted and took play down the left touchline. Harry Wells stole ball at the lineout but was forced back into touch. At the second attempt, the visitors looked for Twelvetrees in midfield and, although he remained on his feet in possession, he was wrapped up until the referee blew for a Tigers scrum close to the tryline.
The scrum brought a Tigers penalty as Bonilla got the call to join the fray, replacing Henry at fly-half.
Referee Makepeace yellow-carded Hanson and Calum Green after an altercation at a ruck in the Tigers half, but play restarted with a penalty to Tigers in their home half and Bonilla prodded down the right as Clarke returned for Gloucester, making it 14-a-side for the closing stages. Ball squirmed away from Tigers, though their rivals knocked-on to provide scrum ball which brought another penalty.
Wiese threatened a debut score as he attacked the line and, although he was brought down short, the forwarded retained ball and got behind Charlie Clare to drive in for the bonus point score. Bonilla added his first points in green, white and red as Tigers eased out to a 35-15 lead with three minutes left to play.
And the fly-half replacement brought the game to a close with a penalty as Tigers pinned their rivals back near their own line.
TIGERS WIN SEASON OPENER
It's Leicester Tigers 28-15 Gloucester in what was a string performance from the Tigers.
BONILLA KICKS AGAIN FROM THE TEE
Bonilla kicks three points for Tigers and that concludes the play for the afternoon.
TIGERS HUNGRY FOR MORE
Tigers aren't finished yet as the come forward with Brink and Heyes carrying well.
Tigers looking to finish as they started the game and Matt Garvey gives away another penalty - with a chance for Tigers to kick from the tee.
Bonilla will take his time
BONILLA DEBUT KICK
It's a debut conversion for Joaquin Diaz Bonilla as Tigers now lead by 20 points with less than five minutes left to play.
TIGERS SCORE BONUS POINT TRY
Charlie Clare is the man who drives forward over the line for Tigers to gain the bonus point try. Some hard graft in the Gloucester five-metre line sees Tigers extend their lead.
GLOUCESTER GIVE AWAY ANOTHER PEN
Bonilla kicks for the corner as Gloucester are yet again punished for another penalty in the breakdown.
Tigers attack and advance with Wiese moving forward. The balls moved across the backline with Tigers now on the five-metre line.
CALUM GREEN SEES YELLOW
Calum Green is shown the yellow card as Jake Makepeace sees some foul play. Tigers down to 14 for the remainder of the match.
TIGERS ESCAPE GLOUCESTER DRIVE
Cyle Brink does well to win the penalty deep in his own half, with the ball just to the left of the home sides posts.
Gloucester have fire in their belly and the scrum sees another penalty given away as Tigers have a chance to clear their lines.
HENRY CONTINUES KICKING STREAK
Zack Henry again slots the points as Tigers make it 28 to Gloucester's 15 points. A fine kick with his left boot.
TIGERS ROAR AS PENALTY WINS
That penalty meant something! The roof is almost lifted off as Tigers players sound their approval at regaining possession.
The ball continues to bounce around, and it's yet another penalty for Tigers. The tee is called for...
SCRAPPY PLAY WORKS IN TIGERS FAVOUR
Both sides guilty of some scrappy play as the ball exchanges between the teams.
KEEP ON MAULING
It's working for Tigers as the line out gains ground thanks to another rolling maul.
Freddie Clarke is penalised and will head towards the sin bin following the yellow card.
The play goes back to the preceeding line out.
TIGERS WIN THE PENALTY
Tigers win the penalty following another rolling maul, with Gloucester's penalty count totting up.
The line-out comes back to Tigers and the forwards once again out for the maul edging forward.
And it's another penalty to Tigers following solid work from the pack.
TIGERS GO THROUGH THE PHASES
Tigers have kept the ball in the Gloucester half since the restart.
Wigglesworth and Wiese gaining ground, but Gloucester manage to stop the attack and kick to clear.
HENRY GOES FOR THE POSTS...
Zack Henry opts for the tee, following a penalty at the scrum from Gloucester and Tigers steady the lead rom his left boot.
GLOUCESTER TURN UP PRESSURE
Gloucester are applying the pressure on the Tigers defence.
Jasper Wiese does well to move forward with the carry, followed by Harry Wells, but the ball is eventually knocked on by Gloucester's scrum-half and we'll go back for the scrum.
LEICESTER WITH BALL IN HAND
Leicester have come back strong and move the play nicely across the pitch, but Slater puts a stop to the advancements as the ball is airborne between the two teams.
TIGERS LEAD CUT TO SEVEN
The Gloucester conversion is successful as Tigers lead is cut to seven points.
GLOUCESTER STRETCH TIGERS
Gloucester spring a leak from deep in their own half and have rounded it off on their own flank, as Simpson picks up the final ball on the inside line.
ROLLING MAUL DOES THE JOB
Callum Green wins the line-out and Tigers form the maul to gain the ground.
Tigers still have the ball as Wigglesworth keeps the play moving linking up with Henry.
Who lines up the drop goal...but it goes wide. Gloucester ball.
Both teams are back at it following the long delay, with possession exchanging between the backlines
Gloucester continue to bang on the Tigers door, but Dan Cole is their to make a half to proceedings.
The ball is forced to the back of the breakdown as Simpson kicks, but its the head of Freddie Steward that keeps the ball in play.
The resulting penalty goes Leicester's way.
BOWER COMES ON FOR GIGENA
Ryan Bower comes on for the injured Facundo Gigena following a collision.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
The team's are back out and play resumes, but it stopped almost straight away as Facundo Gigena receives treatment after a coming together with team mate Dan Cole.
HT | TIGERS 22-8 GLOUCESTER
The play swings back to Gloucester, but Tigers remain in control when the ball is kept alive.
Gloucester take the line-out from Tom Youngs throw and they look to stretch the Tigers backline, but it's kicked straight out again as Tigers can retake the line-out.
A knock-on results as Jake Makepeace blows the half-time whistle.
TWELVETREES HITS THE POST
Billy Twelvetrees hits the post kicking from the left hand side and Tigers lead is cut to just 15 points as play resumes.
James Hanson manages to fall over the line following some great work from Gloucester to keep a lost cause alive.
Tigers defence once again proves impenetrable as Gloucester come back at Tigers, but can't find any space,
HENRY EXTENDS TIGERS LEAD
Zack Henry once again smacks the ball through the posts. Never looked phased. Tigers now lead by 19 points.
PLAY RESUMES WITH THE SCRUM
The game resumes with the forwards taking their positions as try-scorer Wigglesworth plays the ball into the scrum.
Gloucester are penalised and Henry opts to kick into the air and Woodward drops it, for Tigers to sweep up. Lots of ground gained there.
Jordy Reid gives away the penalty as Tomy Youngs does well to hold onto the ball.
Zack Henry will go to the tee...
LUDLOW ON HIS FEET
It's great to see Lewis Ludlow is back on his feet and Freddie Clarke will come on to replace him.
HIGH BALL AND A COLLISION
The play comes to a halt following a high ball into the Tigers half with Ludlow caught the wrong side of a tackle.
Time for the teams to catch their breath as the medics do their job.
KNOCK ON BY TIGERS
The ball is adjudged to have been knocked on by Taute and Dan Cole as they come together to halt the Gloucester attack.
The resulting scrum is snatched by Tigers, but Gloucester still have the ball. Simpson trying to make things happen but the Tigers collective force them back once again.
TIGERS HOLD THE LINE
Simpson comes away with the scrum who finds Atkinson before Ackerman drives forward. But Tigers hold strong and Freddie Stewards makes a tackle to force the play back.
It's all sideways from Gloucester at the moment, before they give away a penalty. And Tigers regain possession.
Fantastic defense from Tigers so far...
TEAMS CATCH THEIR BREATH
Both teams take the time to catch their breath as Tom Youngs receives treatment.
The ball will go back for the Gloucester scrum just inside the Tigers half.
HENRY ADDS THE POINTS
Zack Henry makes no mistake and Tigers are 16 points clear with plenty left of the first half.
DEBUT TRY FOR WIGGLESWORTH
Tigers work the ball nicely in the middle and a move started by Richard Wigglesworth and then finished by the debutant.
It went upstairs, but there was no offence found and Tigers have three tries.
TIGERS TRY? WIGGLESWORTH
Tigers look strong from the restart with Kobus Van Wyk throwing himself into the tackle.
Gloucester clear, but Tigers regain possession as Wigglesworth moves the ball along the Tigers backline and it's Potter...who finds Wigglesworth again...who goes over the line, but it will go to the TMO...
PENALTY FOR GLOUCESTER
Billy Twelvetrees gets Gloucester's first points of the day following a penalty as they look to come back at Tigers.
Henry with the restart.
TIGERS HOLD THE PRESSURE
Tigers holding their ground as Gloucester try to find a way out.
Debutant Jasper Wiese has made a powerful start to his Tigers career making some big tackles and carries in the first 20 minutes.
The ball moves into Tigers half and Simpson tries to up the pace, Gloucester still have the ball as they edge forward.
REFFELL BOSSES THE BREAKDOWN
Tommy Reffell doing what he does best when the ball is lose and wins the possession for Tigers as they look for a breather.
Gloucester come back but Freddie Steward is on hand to sweep up.
But it's another Gloucester mistake as Woodward kicks the ball straight out. Tigers ball.
SCRAPPY IN THE PACK
Both sets of forwards throwing themselves into the breakdown as Gloucester raise the pressure...
Jake Makepeace finds Tigers guilty at the breakdown and Cipriani gains some yards for Gloucester as they look to find a way back into the game.
HENRY MISSES CONVERSION
The score remains 12-0 as Zack Henry just skims the post which his conversion attempt.
TWO QUICK-FIRE TRIES
It's Tom Youngs who goes over for Tigers following some early pressure from the restart.
Some fantastic forward play from the Tigers pack gets him over as Gloucester look to gather their thoughts.
Which he does. Zack Henry adds the points from the tee as Tigers extend their lead following the try from Kobus Van Wyk.
TIGERS TRY | KOBUS VAN WYK
It's the South African Kobus Van Wyk who goes over for Tigers as he finds himself a man over following some quick hands from the Tigers back line.
Zack Henry to add the points...
FIRST SCRUM OF 2020/21
Both sides go head-to-head deep in the Tigers half, but the ball breaks and Harry Potter breaks down the line.
He's held up and Tigers work the ball wide and have a man over...
Tigers hold the line on the half-way line as Gloucester creep into the home sides half.
Gloucester's Simpson gets the ball moving for Gloucester on the return as they start to go through the motions.
The away side force a line-out deep inside Tigers terriotry.
BACK AND FORTH
Both teams exchange possession in the first few moments, with the teams trying to gain territory.
Tigers conclude with a kick from the boot of Zack Henry finding the Gloucester touchline out on the left.
We're underway at Mattioli Woods Welford Road as Tigers make some early pressure firing a high ball into the Gloucester half and forcing the line-out.
This is the Leicester Tigers 2,500th first team game at the venue, with Gloucester Rugby the club’s ninth visitors back in 1892.
A rivalry spread over three centuries and 225 meetings, the last eight fixtures have all been won by the home side on the day. Gloucester last won on Leicester soil back in 2007, a stat that head coach Steve Borthwick will be wanting keep intact.
HOW OUR VISITORS LINE UP...
TODAY'S TIGERS 15
WELCOME TO A NEW SEASON...
Welcome to a new season here at Mattioli Woods Welford Road as Leicester Tigers host Gloucester Rugby in the first match of the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership season.
There are four debutants in the Tigers squad for Saturday. Richard Wigglesworth and Jasper Wiese are named in Steve Borthwick’s starting selection, with Cyle Brink and Joaquin Diaz Bonilla among the replacements. Harry Wells makes his 100th appearance for the club.
We’ll bring you all the latest from now until the full-time whistle here on Matchday Live.