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Desperate defence and more cruel luck with injuries, marred London Wasps march towards recovery when they played at Gloucester in front of the TV cameras on Friday evening. But the power play of the Gloucester pack was the key to a scoreline of 43-13 and the home side earned a maximum five points as well with four tries.
Wasps stayed on terms in the early exchanges but the opposing pack were constantly gaining good ground with their close play among the forwards or kicking long at the visitor’s full back young Matt Leek, forced to play out of position through injuries to Josh Lewsey (fractured cheekbone) and Paul Sampson (ankle ligaments)
French international hooker Olivier Azam was a constant threat and scored two tries, the first with a barnstorming run from the 22 metre line shrugging off any number of half-hearted tackles until help arrived from the pack who swept him over the line. His second score from a swiftly taken tap penalty only 10 metres out but with both these tries converted, a well taken, long-range drop goal from fly half Ludovic Mercier plus two penalties from Henry Paul, Gloucester ran up 23 points in the first half to only half-a-dozen in reply.
Wasps were winning good line-out ball on their own throw and with Ian Jones reading the signs well, pinched a lot of opposition ball. But they were not spending enough time deep inside Gloucester’s half and had only a penalty and a drop goal, both from Alex King, to show for their first 40 minutes effort.
Fraser Waters was forced to stay in the dressing room and was replaced by Stuart Abbott who arrived from Cape Town three weeks ago, and when Kenny Logan succeeded with one of his typical darting runs through players in the middle of the park, a quick heel resulted in the ball finding Abbott on the burst and he went over for a try close to the posts. That took the score to 23-13 and Wasps hopes rose only to see Mercier kick another long, drop goal then came a penalty and Wasps trailed by 16 points. Worse still, Paul Volley was forced from the pitch by what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Gloucester were denied two more touchdowns when the referee ruled Diego Albanese had “crossed over to obstruct the defence, and Andy Gomarsall was guilty of giving a forward pass to his diving right winger. But a clever kick put Matt Leek under tremendous pressure and a maul in the corner ended with No 8 Jake Boer diving over. Then a stream of penalties only yards off our line, decided the referee on a penalty try for Gloucester when a hand appeared to deliberately knock-on a pass.
At long last, Wasps supporters got a glimpse of Martin Offiah when he came on for the last ten minutes but hardly touched the ball. After the game Nigel Melville confessed, “We struggled up front and we have got to put that right.