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Finishing the game on the wrong side of a 24-19 score line, a disappointed Wasps side will head back to the capital tonight empty handed after a string of errors and offences let them down despite two tries and the lions share of possession in the first half.
After some late changes which saw Michael Holford replace Pat Barnard and Simon Shaw replace George Skivington in the starting line up - Barnard failing a fitness test still suffering from a hamstring injury picked up against Leicester at Welford Road and Skivington taking a knock in the team run – Danny Cipriani was also withdrawn form the replacements suffering from a stiff ankle after making his comeback at Adams Park on Wednesday six weeks ahead of schedule.
Despite the rejig of personnel, Wasps opened with an excellent controlled passage of forward play which led to a penalty kicked into touch by Jeremy Staunton in gusty conditions. His opposite number Ryan Lamb then over hit a clearance from just outside his own 22 sending the ball into touch on the full.
Wasps took the lead early on after referee Martin Fox had incurred the wrath of the Shed by ruling that a Gloucester hand had knocked the ball forward after a burst from Haskell just outside the home 22. Wasps were penalised at the scrum and Lamb’s penalty found touch deep inside Wasps territory, but the visitors stole possession at the lineout and Serge Betsen powered through two tackles before setting Mark Odejobi bursting through a gap. The ball was recycled quickly and Dominic Waldouck’s well-timed pass sent Tom Voyce clear down the left. When he was stopped just short of the line, new signing Mark Robinson was on hand to gather the bouncing ball and dive over in the corner for an excellent try. Battling the wind Staunton missed the difficult conversion, but Wasps were ahead after five minutes.
New signing Mark Robinson
The strong swirling wind was making life very hard for both hookers and a series of lineout throws were blown off course causing problems at the lineout. After 15 minutes Wasps were penalised at a scrum, just outside the 22, causing a brief flare up between Tom French and Gloucester’s Dave Young. When order was restored Willie Walker made no mistake with the kick.
Wasps mounted a fierce attack straight from the restart when Gloucester failed to gather the ball and the forwards were on hand to take play up to the Gloucester line where the movement broke down. Referee Fox had been playing advantage so Staunton had a penalty chance which went wide.
Gloucester were ahead within a minute when Lamb dropped a neat goal from just outside the Wasps 22. Gloucester again had trouble controlling the restart and Simon Shaw’s smother tackle on Rory Lawson seemed to have set up a good opportunity but the lock was penalised for not rolling away.
The lead was stretched after Lamb’s beautifully delayed pass sent prop Alastair Dickinson charging through a gap. When he was stopped just outside the Wasps 22 the ball was worked back out to the right where the defence just got back in time to save the try. By now though Gloucester had a huge overlap on the left and Lamb sent a kick out wide which bounced comfortably into the arms of Lesley Vainikolo, who dotted the ball down for a try. Lamb was unable to convert but Gloucester were now ahead 11-5.
Eager to law back their lead, Wasps then set up a great chance with a turnover inside the Gloucester 22 after further shaky restart work from the home side but with two men outside him, Waldouck was unable to get an accurate pass away.
Wasps set up another promising position after Staunton picked the ball up off his toes and new signing Lachlan Mitchell, making his first start at fullback, came into the line. Gloucester infringed allowing Staunton a 45 metre penalty chance and this time he struck the ball superbly to narrow the gap to 11-8.
A minute later after the restart bounced over Joe Worsley’s head, Wasps Acdemy and England U20s, Mark Odejobi, showed pace and power to burst out of his 22. Wasps were penalised at the breakdown just outside the 22 however and Walker restored the six-point advantage.
Wasps came roaring back charging down two Gloucester kicks before sustained forward pressure ended with James Haskell picking up at the base of a maul - diving over for a deserved try. Staunton hooked the conversion horribly wide, but the men in black and gold were now trailing by a point.
In the final minute of the half, Walker’s perfectly judged kick rolled into touch near the corner to set up a dangerous position. Under immense pressure Rob Webber found Birkett at the front of the lineout, but Mark Robinson’s poor kick led to an offside decision against Wasps. Gloucester opted to go for the scrum moving the ball out towards the wing but Wasps managed to steal possession and Voyce’s clearance kick was the final act of an entertaining half in which both sides had done their best to play attacking rugby.
The statistics showed that Wasps had dominated both possession and territory, forcing Gloucester into a far higher tackle count but the home side had taken their limited chances to give themselves the narrowest of advantages.
As the second half kicked off, Wasps mounted the first attack of the half when Waldouck did well to gather Staunton’s hoisted kick but Betsen was penalized for not rolling away from the breakdown.
Vainikolo then set the Shed roaring when he was given the ball in plenty of space, however his bulldozing charge was stopped by a fine tackle from Rob Hoadley. A minute later the bulky winger was sent clear by Lamb’s long floated pass – later shown by TV replays to have been forward - and he found Walker on his inside to go over between the posts. The conversion was a formality.
Staunton pulled back three points with a penalty from 30 metres on 51 minutes but another long rolling kick from Walker gave Gloucester the chance to mount more pressure and Mitchell’s courageous head-on tackle stopped a powerful run by Jack Adams.
With the wind strengthening and rain beginning to fall both sides were committing errors and lineouts were becoming a lottery. A promising position for Wasps came to nothing when Waldouck lost the ball in contact just inside the Gloucester 22. Wasps then made another change with Dave Walder coming into the back line in place of Hoadley with Staunton moving in to the centre. Walder made an immediate impression with a lovely break through the middle of the defence to put Staunton into space but the Irishman couldn’t find any support and Wasps were again penalised at the breakdown. With 20 minutes left Staunton was unable to secure a 40-metre penalty. Another jinking run from Walder then found another gap in the Gloucester defence but Staunton couldn’t hang on to his pass.
Another change brought Dan Leo on in place of Betsen with 16 minutes left. At this point play was becoming scrappier and both sides were struggling to show any continuity for all their endeavour. Wasps set up another fine opportunity with an excellent move setting up a chance on the left, but, with Voyce free on the left Rob Webber knocked on.
A delicate piece of footballing skill by Vainikolo launched a dangerous attack by Gloucester. With the referee playing advantage for an offside under the posts, the Cherry and Whites squandered a golden try scoring chance on the left but Walker landed the penalty to put his side two scores ahead.
With time running out, Wasps finally managed to string a series of phases together but they were relying on power rather than subtlety and could not find their way through the resolute home defence. Their pressure was rewarded with three points when Walder landed a late penalty but that was as close as they came as Gloucester kept them comfortably at bay for the closing three minutes.
With a final score of 24-19, another closely fought game slipped through Wasps grasps leaving them with a mountain to climb to reach the EDF semi-finals. For now though, attentions must be turned to the European stage as Wasps prepare for their opening Heineken Cup match, facing Castres Olympique at Adams Park next Sunday 12th October KO 3pm, and with a likely return of Wasps England players, rested for this EDF fixture as part of the RFU and PRL agreement, as well as Danny Cipriani, supporters can prepare for a strong Wasps outfit ready to kick start a new campaign on home turf.
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