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Match Report
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14 Mar 2009: London Wasps v Gloucester

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Match Report
Gloucester's Badge Gloucester Rugby 24
London Wasps's Badge London Wasps 22
Fixture Type: Guinness Premiership Venue: Kingsholm
Match Date: Sat 14 Mar 2009, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Sean Davey Assistant Referee: Kevin Stewart
TV Match Official: Andrew Turner Assistant Referee: Bruce Robertson

Plenty of will but no win for Wasps

A spirited performance at Kingsholm proved fruitless for Wasps this afternoon after the league leaders kept their handle on the table securing a 24-22 victory in a hard fought game.

A tight match, in which Wasps had led by ten points going into the final ten minutes of the first half, was clinched by a late Olly Barkley penalty. Gloucester outscored their visitors by three tries to one, but Wasps gave it everything they had, in a desperate attempt to salvage the game, in the closing minutes. Defeat was a bitter blow, but this was a performance of courage and character, particularly after the early loss of Josh Lewsey, suffering an injury to his right leg, and few home supporters could have complained had Wasps claimed a late score to win the game.

After early Wasps pressure, following a long Danny Cipriani kick, which didn’t quite roll dead, Gloucester went ahead through an Olly Barkley penalty in the fourth minute.

Wasps mounted their first serious attack when Lockie Mitchell stole Gloucester possession in the tackle. After ground was made down the right, the ball was moved out towards space on the left, but the movement ended with a forward pass.

On ten minutes, Wasps were dealt a cruel blow when Josh Lewsey hobbled off after several minutes of treatment, to generous applause from both the home and away support. He was replaced by Dave Walder, who immediately went to fly half, with Cipriani moving out to inside centre. The Wasps defence held firm, until a penalty gave Tom Voyce the chance to take play back up to the Gloucester 22.

Wasps then took the lead on 17 minutes after Walder sent Dominic Waldouck through a gap, just inside the Gloucester half. He burst into the 22 and fed Cipriani, who was stopped by a desperate ankle tap a few metres out. He managed to get to his feet to send a pass to Mitchell, who went over near the corner to register his first try. Walder converted with a fine kick. He added a further three points, with a fine penalty, from 50 metres with 13 minutes of normal time left before the break.

Five minutes later, Gloucester struck back with a magnificent solo effort from Olly Morgan who came into the line deep inside his own half and accelerated through a gap to dive over in the corner. The try was only awarded after the referee consulted his assistant, who had put his flag up, as the fullback had appeared to be tackled into touch. Barkley’s touchline kick drifted wide.

Walder responded immediately, with another well struck 45 metre penalty, after Luke Narraway was penalised at the breakdown, but Gloucester then drew level with a fine try by Iain Balshaw who took Barkley’s long floated pass to race clear and dive over in the corner. The conversion was again off target, making the score 13-13, which was how it stayed until halftime.

Wasps had looked reasonably comfortable, until Gloucester’s late two-try burst. After early Gloucester pressure at the scrums the tight forwards had settled down, the breakdowns had been fiercely contested, with the Wasps loose forwards winning some welcome breakdowns. But the closing few minutes drove home just how much of a threat was posed by the Gloucester backs, and it was clear that it would take a huge defensive effort to keep them out in the second half, particularly without the powerful tackling of Josh Lewsey.

Gloucester were penalised within seconds of the restart and Walder landed a fine 45-metre penalty, from near the right touchline, to put Wasps back in front. That score was cancelled out within three minutes, when Barkley made no mistake with a close-range penalty, after another offence at the breakdown.

The surprise debut of Serge Betsen as a lineout jumper, launched a series of phases inside the Gloucester 22, which ended with Walder restoring the Wasps lead with a simple penalty after the home side again failed to roll away at the breakdown. An offence at the scrum gave Gloucester a kickable penalty, which would have put them level but they opted to kick to the corner. When Wasps were again penalised, they then went for a five-metre scrum, and Betsen was sent to the sin-bin for playing the ball on the ground. He was followed from the field by the home skipper Gareth Delve, who was replaced by local hero Akapusi Qera, making his first appearance of the season. A powerful scrum almost brought a pushover try. A further scrum resulted in another penalty, and it was no surprise when the resultant scrum ended with a try, scored by Qera to the delight of the Kingsholm faithful. Barkley failed to add the extra points.

Two Walder penalties put Wasps back in front, before Gloucester stepped up the pace, and a few anxious minutes followed, before Betsen returned from the bin and Dan Leo then replaced Richard Birkett who clocked up his 199th appearance. Barkley then restored the Gloucester lead, with a long penalty with just 8 minutes of normal time left, making the score 24-22. Barkley missed from a similar distance, when Leo was penalised for failing to release the ball, following a lineout just outside the 22. With six minutes left, he missed another long kick at goal. Marty Veale came on for Betsen and immediately played his part in a series of drives which took play right up to the Gloucester line.

Joe Simpson replaced Reddan, and Wasps drove from the back from the scrum but lost possession on the line and the chance was gone. Gloucester cleared to touch, Wasps won the lineout on the 22, but were called for accidental offside, and, with the clock at zero, Gloucester kicked the ball out to clinch a narrow victory leaving Wasps with a big ask of victory in every game if they are still to make the playoffs.