Rugby Union: Wasps struck down by the Kingsholm factor

Gloucester 22 Wasps 15
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The Independent Online
IT DOES not require the likes of Fran Cotton and Sir John Hall to turn English club rugby into a blood-spattered bearpit seething with edge and needle and unbridled hostility. The Gloucester Shed has been performing that role for decades, and last night, the Cherry and White street poets treated their London visitors to the collected works. They were denied their prime target when England's head boy, Lawrence Dallaglio, pulled out with a neck injury. But they reacted to their disappointment with customary generosity by giving the full Monty to everyone in a black shirt.

Not surprisingly, the West Country tirade shook Wasps to the core; the ailing champions may have shown belated signs of a resurgence in form and fortune recently, but a raw night at Kingsholm is not the place to be when you are struggling for consistency.

Gloucester caught the wave of atmosphere and surfed it all the way to the scoreboard, registering 10 early points through Mark Mapletoft's long- range penalty and Rob Fidler's ninth-minute try, a perfectly organised back-peel following Mark Cornwell's line-out delivery.

Brian Johnson, seriously quick on the right wing, would have claimed a second but for Simon Shaw's stunning cover tackle. If there is another second row in Europe capable of such defensive application, he remains extremely well hidden.

Shaw was in no position to intervene as Johnson sprinted over just seven minutes into the second half, however. The forgotten man of last season's England pack was still huffing and puffing away in the depths of the set scrum as Scott Benton, full of vitality at scrum-half, dummied the Wasps back row and gave his colleague an easy ride into the corner.

At which point, the Shed went quiet and their heroes back-pedalled in sympathy. Peter Scrivener bagged a try from a couple of metres out to pull Wasps back to within a score, and it needed some traditional Gloucester heave-ho from a line-out and a muscular finish from Richie Tombs to restore order.

Wasps finished strongly enough, scoring a last-minute try through Mike Friday, and they still have it in them to spike a big gun or two as the vultures pick over the remains of their title. But as with most London sides, they found Kingsholm an unfathomable mystery.

As luck would have it, Saracens make the same trip on Sunday - and they have far more to lose.

Gloucester: Tries Fidler, Johnson, Tombs; Conversions Mapletoft 2; Penalty Mapletoft. Wasps: Tries Scrivener, Friday; Conversion Rees; Penalty Rees.

Gloucester: S Catling; B Johnson, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton ( I Saunders, 79); A Windo, C Fortey, P Vickery, R Fidler, M Cornwell, P Glanville (capt; S Ojomoh, 66), S Devereux, N Carter.

Wasps: P Sampson (M Friday, 40); N Greenstock, L Scrase, R Henderson, S Roiser: Gareth Rees (capt), A Gomarsall (M Denney, 68); D Malloy, T Leota (S Mitchell, 61), W Green, M Weedon (A Reed, 55), S Shaw, D Walton (J Worsley, 61), P Scrivener, J Ions.

Referee: S Piercy (Yorkshire).