Dallaglio leads the way as Wasps dent Gloucester's pride

Wasps 34 Gloucester 3
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is no mean achievement to tear a Gloucester team limb from limb, the limbs in question containing more gristle per square centimetre than virtually all others known to science, but the Cherry-and-White hordes from Kingsholm were reduced to their component parts in the dark depths of Buckinghamshire yesterday. This was Heineken Cup obliteration on the grand scale, marmalisation writ large, and if Wasps are to be denied a domestic-European double this season, someone will have to play sensationally well.

It is no mean achievement to tear a Gloucester team limb from limb, the limbs in question containing more gristle per square centimetre than virtually all others known to science, but the Cherry-and-White hordes from Kingsholm were reduced to their component parts in the dark depths of Buckinghamshire yesterday. This was Heineken Cup obliteration on the grand scale, marmalisation writ large, and if Wasps are to be denied a domestic-European double this season, someone will have to play sensationally well.

Lawrence Dallaglio and his fellow English champions dominated everything - possession, field position, the tackle area, the line-out, the penalty-count, the lot. They certainly had a monopoly on the affections of the referee, Joel Jutge, until Dallaglio himself descended into the most crimson of mists and was packed off to the sin-bin for sky-diving into a ruck from the Gloucester side and throwing a mighty right hook in the general direction of the entire opposition pack. "I thought the yellow card was a bit harsh," he said afterwards, apparently in all seriousness.

Warren Gatland, the Wasps coach, was in no mood to restore his captain to the action, for two very good reasons. Firstly, some Gloucester bounty hunter would certainly have gone looking for the celebrated No 8. Secondly, the game was already as good as over. Wasps were 24-3 up when Dallaglio trudged off, and while the visitors laid siege to the home line in an increasingly frantic effort to take some solace from a humiliating experience, their failure to manufacture even a half-chance against 14 men underlined the one-sidedness of the tie.

To suggest that Dean Ryan, one of several figures at the top end of the Gloucester operation who spent time at Wasps in a previous life, was underwhelmed by Jutge and his Gallic interpretation of the laws would scarcely do justice the coach's smouldering fury.

"There was," he fumed, "a period of 10 or 15 minutes when things worked against us. It was a scattergun situation and during that spell, we didn't know what was happening, let alone how to solve it. When it started, we were right in the game; when it finished, we were 20-odd points and one man down. There was a lot of confusion out there. We tried to speak to the referee at half-time, but he refused to talk."

Wasps had already scored a clean-cut try through Rob Howley, whose perfectly-judged short-side routine from a maul that appeared to be going nowhere fast might have been orchestrated by Mozart himself, when the Jutge factor kicked in. Richard Birkett's line-out catch on the right laid the foundations for one of Wasps' formidably organised driving mauls, and the referee had already penalised the Gloucester forwards for illegal interventions when he spotted another misdemeanour close to the line. The result? A penalty try, converted easily by the Wasps' fly-half, Alex King.

Eleven points adrift at 3-14, Gloucester were praying for an interval that refused to come nearly quickly enough. Four minutes after the penalty try, their hooker Chris Fortey was packed off to the cooler for piling into the side of another Wasps drive, this one launched by the magnificent lock Simon Shaw.

In the flicker of an eye, Gloucester found themselves on the wrong end of another score, with Dallaglio claiming a close-range touchdown from - yes, you guessed it - a driving maul. When Trevor Leota took advantage of Fraser Waters' direct running in midfield to plunder a fourth try from the first attack of the second half, the contest was all over bar the fighting.

It was more than Gloucester could bear, and by the time Ayoola Erinle had galloped half the length of the field to register his customary replacement's try at the last knockings, the likes of Jake Boer and Henry Paul were close to spontaneous combustion. More than most teams, the West Countrymen thrive on physical intimidation. Confronted by the Dallaglios and Paul Volleys and Craig Dowds of this world, none of whom are shrinking violets when it comes to the slugfest, they disappeared in the fog of their own frustration.

They had started brightly enough, scrummaging powerfully in the opening quarter and piling into the contact areas with testosterone-charged relish. But they were neither as accurate nor as fit as their in-form opponents. As Gatland commented: "We knew they would be hard work early on, but we were interested to see whether they could go the whole 80 with us. We planned to keep the ball on the park and force their forwards to go from ruck to ruck. Quite frankly, one or two of them struggled with the pace and intensity of our game."

Gloucester retreated down the M4 with a single Paul penalty to show for their efforts - a penalty kicked as early as the 19th minute. It was not much of a reward, particularly for Paul himself, who, with the lock Alex Brown and the full-back Riaan van der Bergh, made the best of a bad job.

There could be few complaints from their colleagues, though. Andy Gomarsall was badly outplayed by Howley at scrum-half; Terry Fanolua looked like a spent force in midfield. There were more bad days at the office than David Brent experienced in a television lifetime.

Meanwhile, Wasps continue to go from strength to Samson-like strength. They must now play Munster in Dublin for a place in the final, and while the Irishmen have a Heineken Cup pedigree to die for, the Londoners have the force with them.

Wasps: Tries Howley, Penalty, Dallaglio, Leota, Erinle. Conversions King 3. Penalty King. Gloucester: Penalty Paul.

Wasps: M Van Gisbergen; J Lewsey, F Waters (A Erinle, 76), S Abbott (M Denney, 76), T Voyce; A King, R Howley (H Biljon, 78); C Dowd, T Leota (B Gotting, 78), W Green (T Payne, 72), S Shaw, R Birkett (M Purdy, 72), J Worsley, P Volley, L Dallaglio (capt, M Lock, 68).

Gloucester: R Van der Bergh; M Garvey, T Fanolua (R Todd, 60), H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall; T Woodman, C Fortey (D Du Preez, 5-11, P Buxton, 48), P Vickery, A Eustace (M Cornwell, 60), A Brown, J Boer (capt), A Hazell (Du Preez, 43), J Paramore.

Referee: J Jutge (Fr)

Comments