Nicky Robinson kick-started Gloucester’s season as he stung AVIVA PREMIERSHIP rivals Wasps with an inspired goalkicking performance at Kingsholm.
The Wales international fly-half, dropped to replacement duty following last weekend's tame defeat against London Irish, kicked two late 53-metre penalties under immense pressure.
Gloucester's Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu scored a first-half try, while Tim Taylor kicked 11 points before making way for Robinson at the interval.
Wasps replied with touchdowns by Dan Ward-Smith and Joe Simpson, with Dave Walder slotting two penalties and two conversions before he missed a late, long-range penalty that would have clinched victory.
Gloucester had already lost to Exeter and Irish in recent weeks, either side of an unimpressive home win against bottom club Leeds Carnegie, but Robinson held his nerve just when it looked as though Wasps might edge the verdict.
Although the lead changed hands seven times and a late goalkicking exchange ensured a dramatic finish, the game was riddled with mistakes and dominated by referee Andrew Small's fussy officiating.
But Gloucester will not particularly care how they conjured the win, while Wasps must now reflect on a below-par opening month that has realised one victory, one draw and two defeats.
Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath reacted to the Irish loss by making six changes, including demotion to bench duty for international trio Robinson, Mike Tindall and Alex Brown.
He also paraded a new front-row unit in Nick Wood, Olivier Azam and Paul Doran-Jones, while Wasps – the last away team to win at Kingsholm on Premiership business 10 months ago – were captained by England prop and former Gloucester favourite Phil Vickery.
Walder, who masterminded Wasps' fightback win against Leicester, opened the scoring through a 45-metre penalty before his opposite number Taylor replied from much shorter range two minutes later.
Both sides possessed plenty of creative spark, rival centres Riki Flutey and Fuimaono-Sapolu proving attacking catalysts, but the opening quarter was also punctuated by poor passing and wrong options.
And given the number of errors, it was hardly surprising that frustration would kick-in at some point, a fact illustrated when Wasps' England prop Tim Payne and Gloucester number eight Brett Deacon briefly traded blows.
Their touchline dust-up quickly fizzled out, but referee Small opted to sin-bin both players before Walder rifled a drop-goal attempt wide and it remained 3-3.
Taylor's second penalty nudged Gloucester ahead, only for Wasps to strike seven minutes before half-time when Ward-Smith powered through weak defence and galloped 20 metres unopposed.
Walder converted what was a soft try from Gloucester's perspective, yet the home side remained firmly in contention when Taylor completed his penalty hat-trick before Fuimaono-Sapolu completed an impressive first-half revival.
Wasps stood off him way too long in defence, and he finished clinically, scoring a richly-deserved try that Taylor improved for a 16-10 interval advantage.
Taylor's impressive contribution ended there and then though, as he did not appear for the second period and was replaced by Robinson with Gloucester looking to exert sustained pressure on an erratic Wasps outfit.
A poor third quarter failed to produce any further scoring, but just when Gloucester looked as though they might contemplate shutting up shop, Wasps stung them with a breakaway try.
Substitute Richard Haughton created it, making ground from deep and, as Gloucester's defence frantically tried to regroup, the supporting Simpson finished off with a flourish.
Walder's conversion edged Wasps 17-16 in front, leaving Gloucester needing to rediscover their composure as their 10-month unbeaten home league record came under serious threat.
Robinson then restored Gloucester's lead, courtesy of a penalty from just inside his own half, to set up a nerve-tingling finale.
Robinson began to boss territory through his astute tactical kicking, but Flutey remained a threat, carving Gloucester open three minutes from time and setting up an attacking platform that Wasps capitalised on with a Walder penalty.
The lead though, proved short-lived as Robinson stepped up to land another huge penalty and give Gloucester a triumph they so desperately needed.