Gloucester 18 London Wasps 17: Lamb edges battle of fly-halves
Cipriani's faulty radar costs Wasps dear as Gloucester No 10's superior kicking carries the day
In a game of two outside halves, Ryan Lamb won on points, although it was a desperately close run thing. With home advantage – Gloucester have not been beaten at Kingsholm in 22 matches – Lamb kicked six penalties out of six in a tumultuous clash that was enough to trump Wasps and Danny Cipriani.
Lamb severely punished the indiscretions of the London side who provided him with ample ammunition and it all looked so comfortable for Gloucester. When Lamb kicked his sixth penalty early in the second half they led 18-3 but then the picture changed dramatically.
The Lamb shank arrived in the 51st minute when the young stand-off was dispatched to the sin-bin for playing the ball from an offside position. It was just the encouragement Wasps needed to mount a terrific fightback. They scored two tries, which was two more than Gloucester managed, and came very close to what would have been a matchwinning third. In the end the Shed, providing emotional support just when it was needed, cheered their team home.
Gloucester, in front of a capacity crowd, remain at the top of the Guinness Premiership but Wasps were left to reflect on what might have been had the 20-year-old Cipriani kicked his goals. He landed one in the first quarter which made it 6-3 but was off target with three other first-half penalties. They were expensive misses. Cipriani has a short, explosive kicking style rather than anything languid and elegant and it does not appear to be the most reliable method.
In the second half Wasps neglected to go for goal when awarded a penalty when it looked as if Cipriani was back in the groove. His conversions of the tries were both excellent kicks. Both sets of forwards got up the nose, metaphorically speaking, of the referee Dave Pearson, particularly Wasps. Many of the penalties issued were not so much for killing the ball as burying it and in Pearson's eyes they were professional fouls.
In turn the referee's interpretation of the laws got up the nostrils of Lawrence Dallaglio. Last weekend Wasps saw their defence of the Heineken Cup disappear against Munster in Limerick. "In that game we had a celtic referee and every breakdown was a free for all," Dallaglio said. "This time there was no contest at all at the breakdown and it means we have to adapt to Premiership referees. There's got to be more consistency." The crowd here loved it when Dallaglio knocked on or when their former hero Phil Vickery was driven back. They loved it even more when Lamb was punishing the visitors with his right boot. He had landed four by half-time.
After 31 minutes James Haskell was sent to the sin-bin for holding on to the ball and Dallaglio did not like that decision either. No sooner did Haskell return, on the stroke of half-time, than he swapped places with Tom Palmer who picked up a yellow card for coming into a ruck from an offside position. Gloucester came close to eluding Wasps' blitz defence with a stunning counter-attack that swept play from 22 to 22 but close to the line James Simpson-Daniel ran out of ideas.
Cue the Wasps counter punch. Their first try was from their collection of smart line-out moves. James Buckland threw in close to the Gloucester line, Tom Rees looped around to the short side and gave the hooker a perfectly timed scoring pass. Simple. Their second try on 66 minutes was the result of sustained pressure and the fact that Dominic Waldouck brushed aside the tackle of Lamb on a sharp outside break.
At that point even the Shed was lost for words.
Gloucester: W Walker; I Balshaw, J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall (A Allen, 67), J Bailey; R Lamb, R Lawson (G Cooper, 60); N Wood, O Azam (J Paul, 60), C Nieto, P Buxton (captain), W James, L Narraway, G Delve, A Hazell.
London Wasps: J Lewsey; R Hoadley, F Waters, D Waldouck, D Doherty; D Cipriani, M McMillan; T Payne, J Ward (J Buckland, 49), P Vickery,T Palmer, G Skivington, J Haskell, L Dallaglio (captain, D Leo, 49) T Rees (J Hart, 55).
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).
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