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Two years ago, when these sides met here in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, Wasps staged a rousing second half comeback, to overturn a huge deficit, and clinch a memorable win. This time, they came from eleven points down to see off a Gloucester side which had seemed on course to avenge their heavy home defeat in the Guinness Premiership game last month, and make it two from two in the LV=Cup.
After a lethargic first half, which saw them trailing 7-3 at the break, Wasps conceded another converted try, before storming back with tries from Tom Varndell and Joe Simpson, who put in a MOTM performance, after coming off the bench.
After five minutes of Wasps pressure, Gloucester conceded a penalty just outside their 22 and Eoghan Hickey opened the scoring.
Debutant fullback Jack Wallace, another product of High Wycombe RGS, earned a round of applause with his first touch, as he leapt high to claim a hoisted kick on halfway. When the ball was recycled, Hickey’s raking kick rolled into touch near the right corner, but the position was lost when Wasps were penalised at a subsequent scrum.
On 17 minutes, Wasps conceded another penalty at a scrum, this time near their own 22, but fly half Freddie Burns missed his kick, from 30 metres, sending it to the left of the posts.
Gloucester applied their first serious pressure, when a powerful charge by Adam Eustace took play deep into the Wasps 22, and Burns nearly found a way through, before a knock-on ended the move. Two minutes later, Burns did breach the defence darting through a gap after a good back row move from a scrum, 35 metres out. He added the extra points, to make it 7-3, with twenty minutes gone.
Wasps were really struggling to put any sustained play together. Their best attack came after good work by Ben Jacobs, down the left, but another penalty gave Gloucester the chance to clear.
After 31 minutes, Wasps were forced into a front row substitution, when Charlie Beech, who’d required treatment to a leg injury, limped off, to be replaced by Gabriel Bocca. Almost immediately, Will Matthews charged down an attempted drop at goal from Burns and Wasps counterattacked strongly. Gloucester’s backs were pressured into a wild pass, and there seemed to be an overlap on the left, but Lachlan Mitchell’s speculative pass was intercepted. A scrum ensued, for a Gloucester knock-on, but Wasps conceded yet another penalty, which took play back to their 22.
With four minutes of the half remaining, there was a second replacement in the Wasps front row, when Ben Broster came on for Joe Horn-Smith, on loan from London Welsh. Seconds before the break, Jack Wallace collided with opposite number Olly Morgan, as the pair went up for a high kick from Burns. The young fullback was on the ground for some time, before returning to the action. The half ended when former Wasps favourite Tom Voyce gathered a high kick just outside his 22, and ran straight down the tunnel with the ball under his arm.
Wasps brought Dave Walder on for the second half, as Wallace was still feeling the effects of his collision with Morgan. Hickey moved to fullback,and within two minutes of the restart, Gloucester stretched their lead, as Burns scored his second try, hacking a loose ball through Hickey’s legs and winning the race to the touchdown, after some defensive confusion between Hickey and Walder. The flyhalf landed the simple conversion, from in front of the posts, to make it 14-3.
Wasps bounced back with a superb try by Tom Varndell, set up by fine work in midfield by Simon Shaw. He fed Mitchell, whose long, looping pass found the winger 30 metres out, and his pace took him round the defence to cross near the corner. Hickey missed the conversion and Wasps then brought Joe Simpson on for Warren Fury.
Wasps were now beginning to play with more urgency and a long penalty by Hickey found touch at the corner. Lineout possession was secured, but a series of thrusts were kept out by the Gloucester defence, before they eventually conceded a penalty near the right touchline but Walder’s kick drifted to the left of the posts.
John Hart was the next Wasps replacement, coming on for Hugo Ellis after 57 minutes and Wasps immediately came close to a second try, with Varndell narrowly failing to win the race to a rolling ball, near the left corner. From the lineout, Simpson displayed superb poaching skills as he gathered a stray throw to crash over for an opportunist try. Walder converted to snatch back the lead by a single point as the game entered its final quarter. A neat interplay between Walder and skipper Paul Sackey took play up to the Gloucester 22, but Simon Shaw lost possession in the tackle, in his last contribution before leaving the field, to be replaced by Marty Veale.
Wasps were denied three more points when a long-range penalty by Hickey, from just inside his own half hit the post. Another piece of Simpson magic - a wonderful one-handed scooped pickup, after Wasps won a Gloucester scrum set up another attack, in which Hickey’s jinking run took him past a series of defenders before a penalty was awarded, just inside the visitors’ 22. Walder was on target to make it 18-14 with eleven minutes left and Gloucester were reduced to 14 men, as replacement hooker Scott Lawson was shown a yellow card.
Tom Varndell made way for Mark Odejobi, who came on for his first appearance of the season, before Wasps produced another flowing move, which was stopped just short of the line. The increasingly dominant Wasps scrum forced another penalty and Walder had a stroke of luck as his kick appeared to be screwing wide, but hit the inside of the post to go over and stretch the Wasps lead to 7 points, with five minutes to go. Wasps came close to another late score, before the final whistle blew on an entertaining game.
Wasps return to Premiership action next weekend, when they visit leaders Saracens. They then have another away game, at Sale, before returning to Adams Park, to take on old rivals Leicester, on Sunday, December the 6th.