O'Connor adds class to Wasps' advantage

Wasps 33 - Gloucester 20
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The Independent Online

Wasps registered their first double of this Premiership campaign yesterday, but there was still disappointment that the home side failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority to notch enough tries for a bonus point.

But it ended an unhappy spell during which they had been thrown out of the Powergen Cup after fielding an ineligible player, as well as losing successive European matches to Leicester; the whole unhappy period sparked by defeat against Premiership new boys Worcester.

For Gloucester it was a wholly unsatisfactory afternoon, beginning and ending with two players sent to the sin bin, which overlapped, thus reducing them to 13 men for four minutes. The fact that Christo Bezuidenhout, the second recipient of a yellow card was kept off the field for three minutes more than the statutory 10 did have a bearing on events, as Wasps scored their third try during that extended period from a tap penalty.

Gloucester's captain Jake Boer had to be replaced during that period because they had to replace Bezuidenhout with another specialist prop, so the longer the South African prop was kept out of the action, the longer the experience of the back-row man Boer was missed. And that third try snuffed out the last lingering hope Gloucester had fostered of pulling back to within a bonus point of their opponents.

It prompted Dean Ryan, Gloucester's assistant coach, to ask: "Why should he have to spend 13 minutes in the sin bin? He had done his penance. Players should be allowed to return to the pitch once they have done their time. But common sense and referees don't always go hand in hand."

But the first yellow card was not exactly helpful either. Henry Paul, their chief play-maker and goal-kicker, was deemed by the referee Roy Maybank to have prevented the tackled Wasps player to release the ball.

Nigel Melville, Gloucester's director of rugby, said: "Henry said to me that he didn't know why he was sent off because he said when he tackled the guy he stole the ball from him and was preparing to present it on our side."

Gloucester had arrived in Wycombe having never beaten Wasps away in the Premiership and on this showing they are going to have to wait a deal longer before that particular run is ended. It was Wasps who showed more enterprise. For much of the game Gloucester appeared reluctant to take on Wasps' defence. In fact the only clear moment of direct running came when it was too late.

That was when replacement James Forrester, their powerful, pacey back row forward, took on and beat the Wasps cover in the 77th minute. Other than that, there was little spark from the Cherry and Whites, despite having the likes of Marcel Garvey and Jon Goodridge champing at the bit every time their forwards did get some possession.

The early stages had been marked by a spell of mind-numbing aerial rugby, with players on each side preferring to hoof possession away. Gloucester proved more adept at this particular ploy and so presented their opponents with far more opportunities.

The law of averages came in to play and a sell-out crowd of 10,000 was treated to two tries for the home side. The Ireland flanker Johnny O'Connor underlined his class with a superb all-round display that began with Wasps' opening try following the first of many big drives. And it was O'Connor's sharp-witted pick-up which was instrumental in Josh Lewsey registering his first Premiership try of the season, while the usual reliance was placed on full-back Mark van Gisbergen's trusty right foot for the goals.

Wasps: Tries O'Connor, Lewsey, Shaw; Conversions Van Gisbergen 3; Penalties van Gisbergen 4. Gloucester: Try Forrester; Penalties Paul 5.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; J Lewsey, P Richards, S Abbott (R Hoadley, 75), T Voyce; A King (J Brooks, 75), M Dawson (H Biljon, 75); C Dowd, B Gotting (J Barrett, 66), W Green (A McKenzie, 75), S Shaw, R Birkett (J Hart, 80), J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), J O'Connor.

Gloucester: J Goodridge (J Bailey, 79); M Garvey, T Fanolua, H Paul, S Kiole; B Davies, A Gomarsall; C Bezuidenhout (N Wood, 71), B Davies (A Mauger, 45), T Sigley, A Eustace (P Buxton, 62), A Brown, J Boer (capt; N Wood, 61-71), A Balding, A Hazell (J Forrester, 56).

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).