Moncrieff inspires magnificent Gloucester

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The Independent Online

Mean, muddy and magnificent. Gloucester's whole team put on a storming show for a packed Kingsholm as they rediscovered their winning ways and reinforced their bid for a place in Europe next season.

For Wasps it wrapped up seven days of misery when they have been kicked out of Europe and lost a midweek Allied Dunbar Premiership match at home to Bristol. This has been a severe blow to their European aspirations.

It was a match that broke the mould. Tradition dictates that on paddy fields of pitches such as this the forwards only shall soil their shirts. Not so with the Gloucester men. The backs too were plastered from head to foot with as much mud as the pack. They put in tackles, made use of the incredible amount of possession that the forwards secured throughout and generally mucked in. Fly-half Simon Mannix kicked perfectly for 16 points and scrum-half Elton Moncrieff was a revelation.

Forget wet weather rugby, from the outset both sides went for it. Not for them the usual wallowing of 10-man mud-baths. Instead they opted to entertain as they skidded and slid, slipped and slopped their way over the morass of Kingsholm.

Wasps had begun well, looking sharp, and Gloucester did not get a look-in for fully five minutes as the Londoners' pack turned in a great display of ball retention and recycling. Hooker Trevor Leota's try at the end of it was just reward for all the hard work and Alex King converted.

Gloucester hit back hard. The home forwards were unbelievable. They blew their opponents aside at the line-out and blasted upfield in a series of surging, searching drives.

Mannix punished them when they brought down a maul and also when they were caught offside. Then came a wonderful Gloucester try. Wasps lost a line-out on their own throw, the ball bobbling on the rutted surface. Prop Trevor Woodman pounced and popped it up. It found its way into the hands of Mannix. A perfect pass inside to Chris Catling saw him produce a moment of magic. How he kept his footing when dancing his way over the treacherous surface and through the defence is a mystery. It left Joe Ewens with a clear path to the line and Mannix converted.

Wasps' hands in a ruck added to the Gloucester tally and when they scored their second try two minutes after the interval the home crowd was roaring. Ian Jones won a line-out and a text book threequarter move which would have looked good on hard ground saw left wing Brian Johnson going over. Mannix converted then added a penalty when both sides had been reduced to 14 after Woodman and Mark Weedon of Wasps were sent to the sin-bin for fighting.

More scuffles broke out and the referee Nigel Yates spoke sternly to both captains. Gloucester old boy Phil Greening emerged on the hour as a replacement for Leota and soon had the crowd booing when he went over for Wasps second try from a tap penalty. But the cheers were all for Gloucester after a stirring performance.

Gloucester: B Hayward; C Catling (R Jewell, 79), J Ewens, C Yates, B Johnson; S Mannix, S Moncrieff; T Woodman, J Djoudi (N McCarthy, 69), P Vickery, R Fidler (M Cornwell, 64), I Jones, J Paramore, S Ojomoh, K Jones (capt).

Wasps: J Ufton; L Scrase, F Waters, M Denney, K Logan; A King, M Friday; D Molloy (A Le Chevalier, 70), T Leota (P Greening, 60), W Green, M Weedon, A Reed, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley (P Scrivener, 70).

Referee: N Yates (Manchester).