Rugby Union: King puts gloss on Wasps

Gloucester 12 Wasps 13
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The Independent Online
JOY FOR King, agony for Kingsholm. Alex King's touch of magic in a drama-filled finish ripped both victory and joint leadership of the Allied Dunbar Premiership from Gloucester's grasp, while confirming Wasps' return to their championship form of two season ago.

An unremittingly physical contest reached a thrilling climax. Wasps trailed 12-6, all the scores having come through penalty goals, as the match moved towards injury time. The men in black were closing menacingly on the Gloucester line in what seemed certain to be one last scoring effort. One after another, Wasps had an attacking line-out and four set scrums repelled by Gloucester without penalty. A fifth scrummage was formed, but the ball squirted out too quickly for Wasps' replacement scrum-half, Mike Friday. His side retained possession, but the game seemed up when Shane Roiser was wrapped up out wide.

By now four minutes of added time had elapsed. Surely, we thought, Gloucester would put the ball dead. Whether or not referee Brian Campsall would have then blown up is a moot point, but Gloucester drove up field instead and when they were penalised for not releasing at a ruck, Wasps struck. Friday popped the ball to King, who did not hesitate. Bravely the outside-half took the ball up to the Gloucester defence before weaving his way past several tackles and off-loading just in time for the prop Will Green to score at the posts. Kenny Logan's conversion did the rest.

Campsall had been a central figure on the day after the Rugby Football Union had stated their intent to make three referees full-time this season. The Yorkshire official policed the tackle area with vigour and earned regular catcalls from the occupants of the Shed, who always seem to spot a little bit more than is usually visible to the naked eye. Yet Wasps' coach Rob Smith also had a word with Campsall as the teams went down the tunnel at half-time with Gloucester leading 9-0 through three penalties by Mark Mapletoft.

The first half had been largely a diet of forward clashes with both sides ill-disposed to letting play go more than one or two phases. It was no less absorbing for all that, but the unstinting effort seemed to have drained both packs as the match went on.

A shining beacon in the Gloucester back division was winger Philippe Saint-Andre. The former French captain was not called upon often, but, either with cover tackles or one scintillating break, everything he did was stamped with quality.

Elsewhere there was one too many dropped pass for any real flow to develop. Wasps' full-back Jon Ufton was close to a first try after 45 minutes but his chase of his own chip ahead was cut down by Saint-Andre.

Ufton left the field having damaged his elbow in the tackle and King entered the fray. Two penalties by Logan halved Gloucester's lead before Mapletoft gave them another three points.

Logan was off target with another kick at goal but when a Gloucester jersey was spotted by Campsall coming in from the side of a Wasps maul which had driven all of 40 metres it was the prelude to a touch-kick by King which set up the thrilling denouement.

Gloucester: Catling, Lumsden, Mannix, Tombs, Saint-Andre, Mapletoft, Benton, Windo, Greening (C Fortey, h-t), Vickery, Fidler, Sims (M Cornwell, 72), Ojomoh, Carter, Devereux.

Wasps: Ufton (A King, 46), Roiser, Scrase, Henderson, Logan, Lewsey, Gomarsall (M Friday, 65), Molloy, Macer (T Leota, 46), Green, Weedon, Reed (S Shaw, 54), Dallaglio, Volloy, Worsley. Referee: B Campsall