King adds the final indignity

Gloucester 3 Wasps 39
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It may not have been the result to satisfy the Justice Department but on the day Wasps subjected Gloucester to a cross-examination to which they had no answer. The Premiership ain't over till the administrators say so and yesterday Wasps played as if they had found the land of milk and honey.

The controversy surrounding the Premiership final is that Gloucester, who finished 15 points clear in the league, were forced to enter a 400m race after winning the marathon by a street. And having proved themselves throughout the season they go away empty-handed. Wasps compounded man's inhumanity to man by putting in their most dynamic performance of the campaign.

From the half-backs, Rob Howley and Alex King (the No 10 who contributed 24 points and was named man of the match), to the try-scoring Josh Lewsey, to the remarkable Trevor Leota, and to the back row spearheaded by the captain Lawrence Dallaglio, Wasps were quite outstanding.

Nobody had treated Gloucester, who have never won the Premiership, with such utter contempt. Those who argued that yesterday's match distorted the true picture will say that Gloucester have been inactive since early May after completing their league programme, while Wasps have been busying themselves in a play-off with Northampton and last week in the final of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup in which they put 40 points on Bath.

Would Gloucester be fresh or rusty? We soon found out. They were so far off the pace and so out of touch it was almost criminal. And when they did manage to win possession they invariably spilled it. In short, they were unrecognisable from the squad that had won the Powergen Cup here in such style and had scaled the Zurich peaks from September to May.

Wasps' coach Warren Gatland, recruited to the London club after he had been ditched by Ireland, said beforehand that "it was time for the black and gold army to stand up and storm Twickenham". He was talking about the supporters but in the event both they and their team ransacked Twickenham, not to mention the poor old Cherry and Whites.

As the temperature hit 31 degrees, Gloucester were caught cold. Wasps made a dream start and were 13-3 in front within 10 minutes. With their first touch, from a lineout, King found Stuart Abbott on a magnificent angle with equally impressive timing and it enabled the centre to bisect the Gloucester midfield. Abbott sailed down the middle and at the decisive moment intelligently checked himself, looked to his left and found Lewsey sprinting into Twickenham's wide acres to score at the posts. Perfection.

Although Ludovic Mercier almost immediately responded with one of his trademark long-distance penalties, wind-assisted, Gloucester looked as if they didn't know what had hit them. After eight minutes Lewsey was freed down the right wing as Wasps again swarmed to the task. After the ball had been transferred through half a dozen pairs of hands, the upshot was Simon Shaw striding over the line like the last man standing. No try. Referee Tony Spreadbury had already awarded a penalty - to Wasps and King kicked it.

Two minutes later he added another when the Gloucester backs were penalised for offside, a harsh call after Mercier had been impeded following a chip ahead. Gloucester could barely get their hands on the ball and after King was wide with a drop goal attempt he was merely laying down a marker. He made no mistake with another effort from a similar position in the 18th minute. Gloucester actually managed to get into the Wasps half, but in the heat it might have been a mirage. On the stroke of half-time King made a half-break, found all-action support and the move ended with Lewsey dummying Marcel Garvey to cross for his second try. King's conversion made it 3-23 at half-time.

When Andy Gomarsall was sent to the sin bin three minutes after the interval for roughing up King, it was like kicking a man when he was down. And this is what King proceeded to do with two more penalties and another drop goal. Gloucester, forced to run the ball from anywhere, produced another knock-on which ended in a simple try for Joe Worsley which, of course, King improved upon. While he was receiving the champagne his opposite number Mercier, who will shortly join Grenoble, was forced to limp from the field, a distressing epitaph for what had been a brilliant two seasons in the Premiership. Sad for Mercier, even sadder for Gloucester. They both fell victim to the Sting.

Gloucester 3 Wasps 39
Pen: Mercier; Tries: Lewsey 2, Worsley
Cons: King 3
Pens: King 4
Drops: King 2

Half-time: 3-23 Attendance: 44,000

Gloucester: T Delport; M Garvey (C Stuart-Smith, 76), T Fanolua (R Todd, 40), H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; L Mercier (S Amor, 68), A Gomarsall; R Roncero, O Azam, P Vickery (capt), A Eustace, M Cornwell (R Fidler, 40), J Boer, J Paramore (P Buxton, 53), A Hazell.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen (A Erinle, 76); J Lewsey, F Waters, S Abbott (M Denney, 68), K Logan; A King, R Howley (M Wood, 71); C Dowd (A McKenzie, 75), T Leota (P Greening, 62), W Green, S Shaw (P Scrivener, 73), R Birkett, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley (M Lock, 73).

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset).