Please note that the Main Stand/BCUC Blocks C, D, F, G are sold out for this game.
The London Wasps v Gloucester rival match on the eve of the rugby world cup final was always going to be a tight battle. The Cherry and Whites came looking for revenge, while The Black & Gold Army looked to continue from where they left off the last time the sides met…as winners.
The Twickenham final was a one sided affair and most people thought the possibility of that happening again was very remote. Nigel Melville’s side arrived on the back of three consecutive losses, results that would make them even hungrier for the win. Wasps came unstuck against a hungry Leicester Tigers side in their last league game; they weren’t going to make the same mistake in this game.
The first quarter saw Mark Van Gisbergen and Henry Paul trading penalties like schoolboys swapping sticker collections. However, after Paul missed two from his first three attempts and Van Gisbergen dead on-song, it was the Wasps flyhalf that was securing all the points. Wasps raced to a 9-3 lead and had several good attempts at breaking the tight Gloucester defence. However, Melville’s side stood strong at the continuous onslaught.
The game was definitely not pretty, as it was played in rather slippery conditions due a light drizzle, and both sides battled to break any defensives lines. Paul managed to land a second penalty after 20minutes and it remained at 9-6 leading up to half-time in what was a very low-key first half.
The second half started with Wasps giving away two soft penalties and Paul made up for his earlier misses and for the first time in the match took his side into the lead.
Approaching the hour mark and trailing 9-12, Wasps knew they needed a spark to get the match going and regain the lead. That spark came from a move rehearsed during the week on the training pitch. A Van Gisbergen grubber along the 22m line saw the ball neatly bounce up for Fraser Wasters. The centre held on, changed the angle of his run and scored the try. Surprisingly Van Gisbergen missed the relatively easy conversion hitting the upright with the attempt but Wasps once again had their noses in front at 14-12.
Gatland made a triple replacement in the 57th minute with Trevor Leota, Will Green and John Rudd being replaced by Ben Gotting, Tim Payne and Alex King respectively. King was making his long awaited return after a knee injury and a massive cheer from the home crowd greeted the flyhalf. Ironically his last game for Wasps was against Gloucester in the Twickenham final in which he won the Man of the Match award.
His arrival meant Van Gisbergen moved to fullback with Tom Voyce moving across to the wing. King’s inclusion was marked by a drop-goal in the 65th minute, which settled the Wasps backline, and allowed them to play the final 15-minutes well within the Gloucester half, at 17-12 ahead.
The flanker, Paul Volley, who was named Man of the Match, switched back to his accustomed No.7 position, and kept guard around the scrums like a man possessed, allowing Rob Howley to play with complete confidence away from any tacklers around the base of any rucks and mauls.
Wasps knew they were in a winning position and all that was needed was to close out the game. The final ten minutes were spent well within the Gloucester half and after Paul missed another penalty, Wasps were on the verge of victory. Gloucester were trying to hang on for a bonus point but were denied it after they were caught offside. Van Gisbergen made no mistake and the Black & Gold Army ran out 20-12 winners.
Gatland said, “They put us under a lot of pressure but we dug deep, finishing strongly and I’m thrilled with how we played. We had an inexperienced team out there but they closed out the game superbly.
“Some of the tackling was excellent and although there weren’t many thrills, it was a great match from a defensive point of view. There’s plenty to work on but I’m very pleased.