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04 May 2008: Wasps v Gloucester

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Match Report
Gloucester's Badge Wasps 17
Wasps's Badge Wasps 25
Fixture Type: Guinness Premiership Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Sun 04 May 2008, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Wayne Barnes Touch Judge: Stuart Terheege
Timekeeper: John Burtenshaw Touch Judge: Paul Emerson

Wasps can't quite make it nine in a row

Dallaglio vows to make the play offs despite an indifferent performance which handed Gloucester victory at Adams Park

Lawrence Dallaglio

Lawrence Dallaglio

As they left Vicarage Road a fortnight ago, with their eighth win from eight over local rivals Saracens, the momentum was with Wasps. So perhaps it was the week's rest that did for Lawrence Dallaglio and his men as they gave what was overall an out-of-sorts performance against Gloucester at Adams Park.

Perhaps it was that. Or perhaps it was, in part, the lacklustre performance of an below-par Danny Cipriani. The driving force in so much of Wasps success in recent weeks, Cipriani had been struck down all week with a virus and chest infection that kept him at best 50-50 to start the game as late as Sunday morning.

Or perhaps it was the great Wasps tradition of delivering supporters the best in roller coaster rides. Never a team to take the easy option, a win for Wasps over Gloucester would have made Dallaglio and Co red hot favourites to finish the season in top spot, with a game in hand and struggling Newcastle and Leeds to face in the coming week.

As it is, the pressure is on. Thanks to a Ryan Lamb penalty as the game drew to a close, that took Gloucester eight points ahead, Wasps took nothing from this game. Elsewhere, Sale's win over Quins, who hung on for bonus point at the Stoop, plus Bath's demolition of Saracens means Wasps slip to fifth place in the table going into the final week of the season.

In addition, Newcastle's surprise win over Leicester will give Steve Bates's Falcons, who looked to be in end of season free fall before this result, a lift as they prepare to host Wasps on Wednesday. And then of course there is Leeds, consigned to National Division One next season, but maybe with designs on going out of the Premiership with a bang on Saturday. So what price now an easy run in?

Captain Dallaglio on the attack

Captain Dallaglio on the attack

However, despite the disappointment of finishing his final Premiership game at Adams Park on the wrong side of the scoreline, captain Dallaglio was in confrontational mood after the game, refusing to accept that the result was anything except a stimulant to his team as they approach the sharp end of the season.

'We will be in the play-offs,' growled Dallaglio at the post match press conference. 'This is just the sort of wake up call that will inspire the team. We're very much a team that wins when it has to win. We understand the task. We will be back.'

And you can't help but believe him.

However, Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan, was unfortunately, spot on in his appraisal of the game afterwards when he stated, 'If I'm honest, they deserved it more than we did.'

And, though the first half was full of the sort of rugby that makes the Guinness Premiership one of the best rugby spectacles in the world, fatal errors by Wasps handed the visitors a 12 point lead within the opening ten minutes.

Wasps were on top in the set piece, tight in the scrum and dominating the line out, and were also the more disciplined of the two sides, conceding 5 penalties to Gloucester's 12 throughout the 80minutes. But the edge and the accuracy in open play, so characteristic of Wasps play in recent weeks, were lacking.

In contrast Gloucester, criticised in the past for not being able to front up physically in the big games, were all front. They had the upper hand at the breakdown and got the better of the collisions the first of which saw Josh Lewsey and Tom Voyce cannon off each other under Ryan Lamb's tactical kick, and allowed chasing Gloucester wing James Simpson Daniel to scoop up the loose ball and canter in to give Gloucester 5-0 lead after just seven minutes.

The cherry and whites had to put in a bit more for their second score, as a good build up featured talented flanker Akapusi Qera who set up Alex Brown for a break into Wasps' half. With the home side on the back foot, Mike Tindall took the quick ball at pace and evaded the usually un-evadable Joe Worsley's tackle before barging out of Josh Lewsey's try line clutches to score Gloucester's second try with ten minutes gone.

The visitors would have continued to dominate territorially had they not infringed on a regular basis to allow Cipriani to kick Wasps out of their half. And though he couldn't nail two early, long range attempts at goal, Cipriani did finally get Wasps off the mark with a much easier chance, in front of the posts, at the end of the first quarter.

That chance had come after a cheeky line out move which saw Simon Shaw doing his best mad giraffe up the five metre line accompanied by the alert Raphael Ibanez, the hooker having slipped him a ball at the front of the line that caught Gloucester flat-footed. Shaw was caught by a brave Rory Lawson tackle, but Wasps hammered on towards the line before Gloucester conceded for Cipriani's three pointer.

Fraser Waters

Fraser Waters

That kick ushered in Wasps best period of the game, and had Gloucester's defence not fought so well, despite being a man down following the sin binning of prop Carlos Nieto for killing the ball, the home side could have racked up enough points to knock the spirit out of Gloucester before half time. In the event, they conceded only once, when the industrious Ibanez was driven over from a line out. And when Lawson saved the day again, bringing down Fraser Waters at full tilt after he had picked a sure fire line off Cipriani, it felt like a turning point. Shortly after Nieto was back, to shore up the Gloucester pack as they fought to defend a five metre scrum, and though Wasps hammered on, Gloucester held firm to go into the half time break with a 10-15 lead.

In the second half Wasps were unable to rekindle the tempo of that first half flourish, and after Ollie Morgan put the visitors further ahead with another opportunistic score half an hour from the end, Gloucester showed they had the coolness of head to contain Wasps for the remainder of the game.

It was that composure that led to Gloucester's third try when, after Cipriani had been high tackled by Lamb, referee Wayne Barnes waved away the remonstrations of the Wasps bench (and much of the crowd). But Gloucester played on. They turned over the ball, and though Lamb mis-hit his cross field kick, Simpson Daniel timed his run perfectly to gather and twist past Tom Voyce before flipping a back handed pass to Morgan for the score.

Shortly after, Cipriani and his half back partner Eoin Reddan were replaced by Mark McMillan and Jeremy Staunton, but still Wasps could not find the rhythm or tempo that had enabled them to dominate teams in their previous eight outings. Staunton kicked wisely to give Wasps good field position though, and when Bortolami flapped at a Wasps line out near his own line, Man of the Match Ibanez was swift to snaffle up the loose ball and bundle over for Wasps second try.

Tom Voyce

Tom Voyce

But though the home side, now within five points of the Gloucester, got themselves in good positions as the half wore on, some basic decision and handling errors denied them another score. Tom Rees will be ruing his inability to use the unmarked men outside him when passed a ball that had try written all over it. Shortly after, Voyce slipped Lewsey a ball that had Wasps once again threatening the line, but a poor pass to Sackey allowed Gloucester the time to cover across and snuff out the danger.

With ten minutes remaining, replacement Willie Walker contributed some more tackling heroics to the Gloucester effort to deny Shaw again, and when a Wasps mistake at a tasty looking attacking scrum handed possession back to the visitors, the end was in sight. A further mistake minutes from time gave Lamb the opportunity to kick a final three points, thus denying Wasps even the losing bonus point and finishing off a frustrating, disappointing day at the office for McGeechan's men.

'It was disappointing to lose today,' said Dallaglio afterwards, 'But I'd rather lose today than in the play offs.

'We can't afford to make the mistakes that we did today, and we let them in for some soft tries.'

Looking forward to the two, now, must win games against Newcastle and Leeds on Wednesday and Saturday, Dallaglio continued, 'We understand the task in hand, and neither game will be easy, but having won at both Bath and Leicester this season, we know we've got it in the squad to do it.'

'We have to be in the right frame of mind for Wednesday,' added McGeechan, 'but our attitude now is quite simple: it will be sorted.'