A League Match Report: Wasps lose to Gloucester fightback in semi final

Wasps’ hopes of reaching their first A League final since 2009 ended in a brave 40-29 defeat at Kingsholm.

21-10 ahead shortly before halftime, they conceded three penalties either side of the break, before Gloucester took advantage of a yellow card to take the lead seven minutes after the restart. Despite losing a second man to the bin Wasps pulled back to within a single point, but Gloucester made the game safe with a try and a penalty. 

Gloucester went ahead after 4 minutes, when fly-half Lloyd Evans went over near the posts following a sustained period of pressure started by a lineout near the left corner. He converted his own try.

Wasps responded four minutes later, after a multi-phased buildup outside the 22 gave  Guy Armitage the chance to put in a strong run down the left. He passed inside to Brendan Macken, who went over from 15 metres for a well-constructed try. Connor Eastgate’s conversion levelled the scores.

Wasps dominated territory for the next ten minutes coming close from a driven lineout, before conceding a penalty on the line. It was against the run of play when Evans put Gloucester back in front with a long-range penalty from just inside the Wasps half.

Two minutes later Wasps were back in front, after Craig Hampson stole round the blindside of a breakdown on the Gloucester ten-metre. He found Will Rowlands in support and took the lock’s return pass to burrow over for a try near the left corner. Connor Eastgate’s fine conversion put Wasps 14-10 ahead after 22 minutes of play.

Ten minutes before the break Wasps came close to a third try, after Frank Halai gathered a long kick and passed inside to Piers O’Conor. The full-back raced through the defence to take play into the 22. A series of close-range drives took play up to the line, resulting in a scrum. A powerful shove by the Wasps eight sent the home pack backwards, and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. Connor Eastgate converted, to put Wasps 21-10 ahead.

Six minutes before halftime, Evans pulled back three points with a 35-metre penalty. This sparked the home side into life and their best attack of the half brought them a penalty, a few metres from the line. It was taken quickly and Wasps’ tight-head prop David Langley was shown a yellow card for tackling scrum-half Ben Vellacott without retreating ten metres. After the second penalty was kicked to the corner and a driving lineout was stopped by another Wasps offence, the home side opted to go for the posts. Evans landed his fourth successful kick, to leave Wasps just five points ahead at halftime 21-16.

A minute into the second half, Connor Eastgate restored the eight-point advantage with a penalty from in front of the posts. Almost from the restart, Gloucester won a penalty which was sent to the corner. After the drive was moved infield they appeared to have crossed for a try, but the score was ruled out to howls of disapproval from the home crowd. A minute later another driving lineout ended with a try for Darren Dawidiuk. Evans kept up his 100% record with a fine conversion to bring the score to 24-23, after 47 minutes.

David Langley returned from the sin bin with the score unchanged, but the next scrum, just inside the Wasps 22, produced a Gloucester penalty. This time the defence held firm, but another penalty soon followed and Will Rowlands was shown a yellow card for an offence at the lineout. Despite being a man down, the Wasps pack stopped the drive, but play moved infield and Cameron Orr went over between the posts. Evans converted, to put Gloucester 30-24 ahead.

Seventeen minutes from time, Wasps came back to within a single point when Guy Armitage finished off a lineout drive near the left corner. Craig Hampson missed the conversion, before Will Rowlands returned from the sin bin in time for the restart.

Gloucester landed a crucial blow when Mat Protheroe danced through the middle to send Harry Randall over for a try, which Evans converted to put Gloucester eight points clear inside the last ten minutes. That lead soon became eleven points, after a kick out of defence and a strong chase pressured the defence into conceding a penalty just inside the 22. Evans’s penalty took the score to 40-29 and the game was almost up for Wasps.

Tom Howe’s scintillating run out of defence almost brought a consolation try, but the ball bounced into touch, just short of the corner. A final period of Wasps pressure ended with a penalty to the home side, who will now face Northampton in next week’s final.

Scorers: 

Gloucester: 
Tries: Evans, Dawidiuk, Orr, Randall
Conversions: Evans (4)
Penalties: Evans (3)

Wasps: 
Tries: Macken, Hampson, Penalty, Armitage
Conversions: Eastgate (3)
Penalties: Eastgate

HT: 16-21 

Wasps A
15 Piers O’Conor
14 Tom Howe
13 Brendan Macken
12 Guy Armitage
11 Frank Halai
10 Connor Eastgate
9  Craig Hampson (c) 
1 Tom Bristow
2 Carlo Festuccia
3 David Langley (Cambridge RFC)
4  Marcus Garratt
5  Will Rowlands
6  Jack Willis
7  Sam Harry (Coventry RFC)
8 Alex Rieder

Replacements
16 Luke Cole (Rotherham Titans) 
17 Tom West
18 Tom Heard (Nottingham RFC) 
19 Ehize Ehizode
20 Ali Bone (Coventry RFC)
21 Will Porter (Wasps Academy U18)
22 Nick De Luca
23 Owain James

Gloucester United 
15 Mat Protheroe
14 Tom Seabrook
13 Ollie Thorley
12 Tom Hudson
11 Harry Robinson
10 Lloyd Evans 
9 Ben Vellacott
1 Cameron Orr
2 Darren Dawidiuk 
3 Ciaran Knight
4 Charlie Beckett (c) 
5 Tom Denton
6 Dan Thomas
7 Matt Kvesic 
8 Freddie Clarke 

Replacements 
16 Henry Walker
17 Alex Seville 
18 Josh McNulty
19 Joe Batley
20 Will Safe
21 Harry Randall
22 Carwyn Penny
23 Ed Bogue