Bright spark Spencer makes Gloucester too hot to handle

Gloucester 24 London Wasps 22
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The Independent Online

Gloucester wiped out memories of an unhappy week with a rugged victory which helped them regain their place at the top of the Premiership. There were echoes of the past as well as the Cherry and Whites' forwards turned in a fine display to complement a magnificent contribution from their backs.





The Kingsholm club's week had begun with the fly-half Ryan Lamb being fined £1,000 at Cheltenham Magistrates Court after admitting punching a student; it continued with news of the Wales scrum-half Gareth Cooper's move to the Cardiff Blues at the end of the season; and on Friday night Leicester stole top spot by beating Bristol. This win, then, will have been very welcome indeed.

The match had stumbled and fumbled its way past the half-hour before it came alight. Then, however, it practically burst into flames, thanks to two scintillating Gloucester tries in the space of five minutes. Try No1 came when Carlos Spencer, the former All Black fly-half who was in a domineering and masterful mood throughout, made a half-break from his 10-metre line before finding his full-back, Olly Morgan, with a perfect pass. Morgan powered away, with Iain Balshaw in support. Morgan offered a couple of dummies and defenders bought them and, after a 60m high-speed chase, he dived triumphantly over the line.

The second try came from a wonderful long miss-pass by Gloucester's other Olly, the centre Barkley. This time Balshaw took the ball and he flew over in the same right-hand corner. Barkley missed both conversions, but at least Gloucester went in for their half-time talk level at 13-13. That had looked a remote prospect after Wasps had gone in front thanks to a wonderful piece of dexterity from Danny Cipriani, the man England don't want at No 10.

An 18th-minute break by Dominic Waldouck opened up the home defences and the centre handed on to Cipriani, who looked certain to score before being hauled down a couple of metres short of the line. A superhuman effort by the Wasps fly-half, however, saw him get a brilliant pass out of the tackle and Lachlan Mitchell was on hand to score the try. Dave Walder, who had come on for the injured Josh Lewsey in the 12th minute, kicked the conversion and then two penalties either side of Gloucester's opening try for a 13-8 lead. That advantage was wiped out by Balshaw's try.

The second half was a see-saw. Penalties were exchanged that left Wasps ahead and it required some traditional Gloucester forward fare to restore the balance. The Cherry and Whites' pack got their heads down and put in some sustained scrummaging that drained their opponents and eventually they squeezed another try out of them, when the Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera, on as a replacement for the injured captain, the Wales No 8 Gareth Delve, muscled his way through a tangle of bodies for his side's third try.

After that the immaculate boot of Walder landed a fifth penalty and the visitors were back in front by a point. As time dripped away, so the tension mounted. Eventually, Barkley kicked Gloucester ahead, and although he missed two further attempts at goal they held on for victory.

Gloucester: O Morgan; I Balshaw, A Allen (M Watkins, 78), O Barkley, C Sharples (M Foster, 64); C Spencer (R Lamb, 69), R Lawson; N Wood, O Azam (A Titterrell, 64), G Somerville, W James, A Brown, L Narraway, A Hazell, G Delve (capt; A Qera, 54).

London Wasps: M van Gisbergen; L Mitchell, D Waldouck, J Lewsey (D Walder, 12), T Voyce; D Cipriani, E Reddan (J Simpson, 80); C Beech (M Holford, 59), R Webber (J Ward, 71), T Payne, R Birkett (D Leo, 66), G Skivington, S Betsen (capt; M Veale, 79), T Rees, J Hart.

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).

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