Leicester 41-41 Gloucester, Aviva Premiership, April 16
Gloucester snatch a dramatic draw with Tigers
April 16, 2011
Gloucester snatch dramatic draw%]
Gloucester produced a superb comeback to earn a sensational 41-41 draw with Leicester in a highly-entertaining Aviva Premiership clash at Welford Road.
Centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu pounced for a last-gasp interception try that along with the conversion from fly-half Freddie Burns saw the Cherry and Whites claim a deserved share of the spoils. Leicester looked on course for an easy victory after an Alesana Tuilagi hat-trick had propelled them into a 14-point lead midway through the second half but they failed to close the game out with Gloucester's young guns having the final say in the highest-scoring draw in Premiership history.
Leicester looked to impose themselves up front in the early exchanges but Gloucester stood firm before slicing their hosts open for the first score. Quick hands off a lineout stretched the Tigers' defence and when winger Horacio Agulla flew out the line, Fuimaono-Sapolu found fullback Olly Morgan with a flat pass and the fullback was able to stroll over for the game's opening try that was converted by Burns.
The Tigers hit back almost immediately with a great kick chase from prop Martin Castrogiovanni nailing Morgan on his own 22. The ball was swiftly recycled by lock Steve Mafi who was lucky to get away with a knock on before scrum-half Ben Youngs floated a pass out to Hamilton who touched down in the corner with Tigers No.10 Toby Flood levelling the scores with the conversion as Morgan limped out of the game with a suspected shoulder injury.
Burns saw a drop goal attempt charged down a couple of minutes later before Agulla ghosting through the Gloucester line and into the 22 with an injection of pace only to be snagged by replacement Tim Taylor with the pay finally grinding to a halt with a knock on. Leicester got their hands back on the ball with a timely shove at scrum time and Flood edged his side ahead from the kicking tee.
Gloucester centre Henry Trinder showed an impressive turn of speed to turn defence into attack midway through the half and his endeavour was eventually rewarded with a penalty against Tigers prop Boris Stankovich at the breakdown but Burns pulled the relatively easy chance wide of the posts. But he atoned for the error moments later by taking a quick tap penalty before finding Fuimaono-Sapolu on his shoulder for a well-worked try with Burns adding the extras. But the visitors once again allowed Leicester to register an immediate reply with their pack's failure to drive straight allowing Flood to add three points to his match tally.
It could have been worse for Gloucester after lock George Skivington and flanker Tom Croft made big gains but the Cherry and Whites did just enough to snuff out the danger. Within moments they had the opportunity to extend their lead with the Tigers caught offside in midfield but Burns failed to connect with the kick. Gloucester continued to press and some good work at the next scrum allowed Burns to find his range once more and take his side out to a four point lead at the break.
An error from Gloucester winger Jonny May, who put the ball out on the full, handed Leicester a superb attacking platform at the start of the second half and the Tigers wasted no time in capitalising. May hauled down Youngs as he closed in on the line but quick ball found Flood and then Alesana Tuilagi who thundered over for a try. Flood's conversion put Leicester back in control of the game but the Tigers were hungry for more. No.8 Thomas Waldrom secured good ball on half way before Agulla fed Alesana Tuilagi on a great line and the winger powered away for his second try in just three minutes of pulsating action. Flood made no mistake with the conversion but Gloucester stopped the rot with a Burns penalty after the Tigers drifted offside.
Leicester's Scott Hamilton scores at Welford Road © Getty Images
To their credit, Gloucester continued to try and play but it was Leicester who carved out the next opening with Alesana Tuilagi completing his hat-trick with the try of the game. A rare unstable Leicester scrum proved to be fruitful with centre Billy Twelvetrees exploiting a gaping hole in the Gloucester defence before feeding Manu Tuilagi who in turn found Hamilton out wide. The Kiwi fullback then floated an inside ball for Alesana Tuilagi to collect at pace before crossing for a crowd-pleasing score.
Flood stepped up to underline the Tigers' dominance but Gloucester dug deep to keep the game alive. The influential Fuimaono-Sapolu fizzed a pass out wide and flanker Matt Cox showed some great hands to flick the ball on to Hazell who had the pace to make the corner for his side's third try that was converted by Burns. And the comeback was on when Molenaar collected the ball out wide before cutting inside with ease before claiming Gloucester's fourth try.
Burns brought his side level with the conversion but they were soon chasing the game again. Flood drew two tacklers before off loading to Waldrom and he produced a well-timed pass to Twelvetrees who sped in for the score. Flood took the Tigers back out to a seven-point lead and they looked on course for the win but they failed to curb their adventurous ways in the closing moments and it proved costly.
Fuimaono-Sapolu was in the right place at the right time to intercept replacement Jeremy Staunton's pass to Waldrom on half way and with seconds remaining he raced away to score and silence the home crowd. And Burns kept his cool to land the conversion and set the seal on a 10-try thriller that will live long in the memory.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.