Cipriani steals show as Wasps run in five tries

Wasps 42 Gloucester 26
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The Independent Online

Tom Varndell's hat-trick helped steer Wasps into the Amlin Cup semi-final, and brought his season's tally to 19 tries in 25 games. Yet it was Danny Cipriani who stole the show, so often dazzling in attack yet dozy in defence.

When it comes to flair and kicking prowess, Wasps will miss the departing Cipriani. In terms of defence, however, the sense of loss will be reduced considerably. If they make the Amlin Cup their 10th major trophy in 10 years, Cipriani could well be the hero but, if they lose, there's just as strong a possibility that he could be the villain.

This was a cracking attacking first-half performance by Wasps, and the England enigma, Cipriani, was at the heart of so much of it. However, he misses too many tackles, and allowed Jonny May to shrug him off as an irritant en route to paving the way for Adam Eustace's try in the 25th minute. Nicky Robinson converted, and added three penalties to keep the visitors in touch. But Gloucester failed to recognise that Cipriani had his best kicking boots on: he converted first-half tries by Ben Jacobs, Serge Betsen and Varndell and kicked two penalties to establish a deserved first-half lead.

Gloucester were also second-best too often at the breakdown, where Wasps became even more predatory once Tom Rees had replaced Betsen for the final quarter. The killer strike came in the 72nd minute, and again Cipriani was at the heart of a flowing move that carved Gloucester asunder. Joe Simpson's pass to Cipriani was whipped out to Kefu before Simpson-Daniel could nail him; Kefu then found Waldouck whose ball back inside set up Varndell for his second try.

Charlie Sharples scored a late consolation try for Gloucester, but it was Cipriani again who cut away the opposition in style, enabling Varndell to complete his hat-trick in the final seconds, before wrapping things up with the conversion.

Cipriani is particularly anxious to leave on winning terms. He said: "We want two trophies, the Premiership and the Amlin Cup, and with the likes of Paul Sackey playing as he is, Ben Jacobs in his first game at full-back, Dom Waldouck and Steve Kefu in such great form, we are coming into form at the right time. You do get the feeling now and again that it would be nice to stay. But I'm going for an adventure in Australia and to learn more about the game. I want to come home a better player."

Shaun Edwards, his head coach, said: "After the game, I told Danny 'that was a fantastic way to say thanks to the Wasps fans for all their support', and he replied, 'I'm only going for two seasons'. He's a Wasps kid and I reckon he'll be back."

Wasps: Tries Jacobs, Betsen, Varndell (3); Conversions Cipriani 4; Penalties Cipriani 3. Gloucester: Tries Eustace, Sharples; Conversions Robinson 2; Penalties Robinson 4.

Wasps: B Jacobs; P Sackey, D Waldouck, S Kefu, T Varndell; D Ciprani, J Simpson; T Payne (S Taulafo 48), R Webber (capt) (T Lindsay 58), B Broster, D Ward-Smith, G Skivington, J Worsley, J Hart (S Shaw 59), S Betsen (T Rees 58).

Gloucester: F Burns; J Simpson-Daniel, J May (C Sharples 60), M Tindall (capt), L Vainikolo (t Voyce 65); N Robinson, R Lawson; A Dickinson (N Wood), O Azam (R Lawson 49), P Doran-Jones (P Capdevielle 68), D Attwood, A Brown (W James 69), P Buxton, A Eustace (A Strokosch), A Qera.

Referee: C Berdos (France).