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Remarkable second-half fightback earns Leicester victory over Gloucester

Published 02/09/2016

Leicester celebrate the remarkable win at Gloucester
Leicester celebrate the remarkable win at Gloucester

Leicester staged a remarkable second-half fightback to secure a spectacular 38-31 victory on the Aviva Premiership's opening night against Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Scotland international centre Matt Scott scored two tries on his Premiership debut, while wings Charlie Sharples and Henry Purdy also touched down as Gloucester cruised into a 31-7 lead five minutes after half-time.

Skipper Greig Laidlaw added 11 points from the boot, but Leicester stayed in the fight through tries by England centre Manu Tuilagi, South Africa wing JP Pietersen and scrum-half Sam Harrison, before flanker Brendon O'Connor crossed four minutes from time and then Harrison's injury-time effort left Gloucester in ruins.

Freddie Burns converted three tries and kicked a penalty, while Harrison added two conversions after Burns went off to secure an unlikely bonus-point triumph as Tigers scored 31 unanswered points in 33 second-half minutes.

Scott announced his Premiership arrival in Gloucester's midfield, with Billy Burns preferred to James Hook at fly-half. Leicester, meanwhile, handed first league starts to summer signings Pietersen and Luke Hamilton in a side captained by hooker Tom Youngs.

And it took Gloucester's new centre of attention just 12 minutes to make an impression, as he finished off a sweeping move that involved telling contributions from Billy Twelvetrees and Matt Kvesic to breach Leicester's defence following a spell of prolonged early pressure, with Laidlaw's conversion making it 7-0.

But Leicester were level within five minutes as wing Telusa Veainu's blistering 60-metre break reaped a deserved reward when possession was shipped wide at pace, allowing Pietersen to break clear before Tuilagi collected a scoring pass after Sharples' tackle on the South African denied him a debut Premiership try.

Freddie Burns' conversion tied things up towards the end of a richly-entertaining opening quarter, but there was more to come, with Sharples then intercepting Tigers full-back Mathew Tait's pass and galloping 60 metres for a try that Laidlaw converted to reassert Gloucester dominance.

A Laidlaw penalty put Gloucester 10 points in front, and Tait continued to endure a dreadful first-half as his attempted clearance bounced off Billy Burns and almost resulted in another Gloucester try.

But the crowd of just over 14,000 did not have long to wait, as another flowing Gloucester move ended with Wales flanker Ross Moriarty showing poise and accuracy through a stunning scoring pass that Scott accepted to cross unopposed, and another Laidlaw conversion made it 24-7 at half-time.

Hook replaced an injured Billy Burns during the break, and he was immediately into the thick of things, gathering a loose ball inside his own half before freeing Purdy on a weaving 50-metre run that resulted in Gloucester's fourth try.

Laidlaw converted, and although Leicester replied swiftly through a well-worked Pietersen try that Burns converted - it was quickly followed by a disallowed Adam Thompstone effort - Gloucester still looked comfortably in control.

But Leicester continued to plug away, and after Kvesic was sin-binned for a technical offence, Harrison claimed a third Leicester touchdown following sustained forward dominance, with Burns converting and then landing a long-range penalty as Tigers moved to just seven points adrift, setting up an intriguing closing quarter that ultimately went their way.

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