Van Gisbergen helps Wasps take Gloucester apart

Gloucester 6 London Wasps 35
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The Independent Online

A fourth defeat in five Premiership matches does not augur well for Gloucester, especially when you realise that Australia are their next visitors. A few charges from Lesley Vainikolo and Akapusi Qera apart, there was little that raised a cheer in the Shed. Kingsholm used to be a bear pit, but these days the home of the Cherry and Whites is a long way from its fearsome past.

By the time the Wasps full-back, Mark van Gisbergen, had skipped away for his second try, and his team's bonus-point score, three minutes from the end, the home fans were streaming out of the ground, They had seen their heroes reduced to a rabble.

Given the length of the club's injury list, the last thing Gloucester's coach, Bryan Redpath, wanted was another casualty, but it took less than 10 minutes for the Scottish prop Alasdair Dickinson to be helped off with a shoulder injury. That was a concern for his club and country, no doubt, but it was nothing next to the alarm 10 minutes later when his opposite number, Tim Payne, went down and needed treatment.

There can barely be a more important player in English rugby at present than the Wasps loose-head prop. With the twin pillars of the England scrum, Andrew Sheridan and Phil Vickery, ruled out of the autumn Tests and potentially the Six Nations too, the man who was a Lions replacement in the summer is set to become the cornerstone of Martin Johnson's pack. Thankfully for the national team manager, Payne's problem here was not structural, but merely a bang to the head that the magic sponge resolved.

Gloucester's problems are not just centred around their injuries. Slow ball, uncertainty at half-back and less than convincing tackling are problems that need to be resolved if they are to haul themselves out of the bottom half of the Premiership table. An early-season mauling at London Irish, a home defeat by Northampton and last week's drubbing at Biarritz have left them black and blue. Wasps could see the bruising and smell the blood. They rode out an early storm, which saw the home fly-half, Carlos Spencer, kick two out of three kickable penalties, and then demonstrated what they could do with their superior back line.

Quick ball, safe hands and direction from Joe Simpson and Dave Walder at half-back enabled the centre Dom Waldouck – a reasonable bet for an England spot until he went off midway through the second half with a suspected fractured cheekbone – to cut inside the Gloucester defence and run to the line for the game's first try. Walder converted and his two penalties helped give his side a handy half-time lead.

A Vainikolo charge down the left, bouncing off two tacklers on his way to the Wasps 22, at least gave the home fans something to cheer at the start of the second half, but the raid was repelled and returned with plenty of interest. Having worked their way upfield and into the home 22, Wasps sent the ball down their back line for Steve Kefu and David Lemi to give Van Gisbergen the chance to barge his way over at the right corner from a few metres out.

The home response was spirited, but erratic. The Wales second row Will James got a penalty virtually in front of the Wasps posts reversed for back chat and then the replacement fly-half, Nicky Robinson, knocked on 15 metres out as a promising move came to nothing. It was that sort of night. Walder turned the knife with a penalty from halfway, and it was all over as a contest.

Gloucester T Voyce; C Sharples, J Simpson-Daniel, E Fuimaono-Sapolu (T Molenaar, 59), L Vainikolo; C Spencer (N Robinson, 52) , R Lawson (D Lewis, 41); A Dickinson (P Doran-Jones, 9), S Lawson, G Somerville, W James, D Attwood, A Strokosch (A Satala, 77), G Delve (capt), A Qera (A Hazell, 59).

London Wasps M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, B Jacobs (S Kefu, 41), D Waldouck (E Hickey, 52), D Lemi; D Walder, J Simpson (W Fury, 77); T Payne, J Ward (G Bocca, 74), B Broster (B Baker, 74), G Skivington, R Birkett (D Leo, 72), D Ward-Smith, J Hart (W Matthews, 67), S Betsen (capt).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).