Rugby Union: Gloucester back to fiery best

Gloucester 28 Wasps 23
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Gloucester 28 Wasps 23

Hell hath no fury like a Gloucester pack scorned. The Cherry and Whites fell back on their traditional siege mentality yesterday and gave unbeaten Wasps such a roasting up front that the Londoners will still be counting the bruises at Christmas.

After six consecutive Saturdays of try-laden, patter-cake rugby, Kingsholm's first contribution to the sabbath revolution offered something rather different. Forget the ping-pong, this was almost neanderthal - a ferocious encounter that teetered on the brink of open warfare from first minute to last.

It was hardly a shock when Kevin Dunn, once a Gloucester stalwart who lost none of his hard West Country edge when he joined Wasps five years ago, was dismissed by the referee Douglas Chapman for an obvious stamp 14 minutes from the end. Gloucester's centre Martin Roberts found himself at the bottom of a ruck near halfway and Dunn moved in quickly with his right boot. It was confirmation, if any were needed, that Wasps were finding the temperature difficult to handle.

"I don't like to see anyone sent off but Martin has stud marks right the way down his back and was obviously trampled pretty severely," Richard Hill, the Gloucester coach, said.

Gloucester, pointless from five games, closed ranks to stunning effect. Phil Greening looked every inch an England hooker as he tore into the soft underbelly of the Wasps forwards. Even though Andy Deacon and Peter Glanville were both back in the dressing room by half-time there was never any question of which pack was ruling the roost at the sharp end.

But there is more to this Gloucester side than eight snorting heavies. Their half-backs, Scott Benton and Mark Mapletoft, can play some football when they are given the space while the young full-back Chris Catling has enough running ability to hurt good defences from deep.

Catling got things rolling in the fifth minute with a break that carried him from 22 to 22 and it created sufficient early pleasure for Gloucester to open up an advantage through two Mapletoft penalties and a try from Alastair Saverimutto, beautifully conjured by Benton and Greening.

Gareth Rees, outstanding for Wasps at full-back, kept the visitors in touch with a penalty of his own and when he made a 26th-minute try for Laurence Scrase the deficit was down to a point.

It was Catling, however, who turned the game decisively four minutes into the second half. Greening snuffled a loose ball 10 metres inside Wasps territory, brushed Dunn away and sent his full-back racing towards the left corner. He moved inside and out, left Rees sprawling and made the left corner with something to spare.

Mapletoft missed the conversion and when Rees landed a second penalty, the gap was back to three points. But the Gloucester goal-kicker was on target with four more penalties to one from Rees and Wasps were left with nothing from the game apart from sore bodies and some ill-disguised anger towards the referee.

Gloucester: Tries Saverimutto, Catling; Penalties Mapletoft (6). Wasps: Tries Scrase, Gomarsall; Conversions Rees, King; Penalties Rees (3).

Gloucester: C Catling; A Lumsden, A Saverimutto, M Roberts, M Lloyd; M Mapletoft, S Benton; A Windo, P Greening, A Deacon (P Vickery, h-t), R Fidler, D Sims (capt), P Glanville (E Pearce, 38), S Devereux, N Carter.

Wasps: G Rees; L Scrase, N Greenstock, A James, S Roiser (D Macer, 68); A King, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, K Dunn, W Green, D Cronin, M Greenwood, M White, P Scrivener (R Kinsey, 35), L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: D Chapman (Yorkshire).