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London Wasps 33 Gloucester Rugby 29

17 Feb 2013
London Wasps 33 Gloucester Rugby 29

Billy Vunipola scored one and set up another to keep London Wasps’ Aviva Premiership semi-final hunt alive with a hard-fought victory over Gloucester Rugby at Adams Park.

With both sides battling it out for fourth sport in the table, this was a tight and cagey affair.

The home side held a narrow 13-10 lead at half-time with Ashley Johnson’s try and the boot of Stephen Jones cancelling out an early Dan Robson score and the kicking of Rob Cook for the visitors.

But after the interval Gloucester turned the tables as Mike Tindall scored his first Premiership try for almost three years to put the Cherry & Whites back in front.

But Vunipola showed exactly why he was named the Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month for January as he set Christian Wade over for a try before crossing the whitewash himself to wrap up a fifth-straight league win for the side from the capital.

However Wasps made it nervy for themselves as late Ryan Mills and Charlie Sharples scores brought Gloucester to within four points with the clock ticking down.

It was Gloucester that started the game stronger, full-back Rob Cook having an early kick at goal after just three minutes only to see his effort fall short of the posts.

But the visitors continued to dominate the early exchanges and went in front after 14 minutes as scrum-half Robson crossed for his first Aviva Premiership try.

It was Akapusi Qera who made the break, the Fijian then offloading for Robson to do the rest and Cook added the extras for a seven-point Gloucester lead.

Moments later Jones got Wasps on the scoreboard with a penalty after Gloucester pulled down a scrum.

And after 24 minutes the home side were ahead as Johnson came from the back of a driving maul to touch down, Jones converting to give Wasps a three-point cushion.

However the scores were level on the half hour as Vunipola was penalised for not rolling away and Cook made amends for his earlier penalty miss to knock over a three-pointer.

Three minutes later and Gloucester were back on the front foot with a flowing move going from left to right, Robson looking to send Sharples over in the corner only for Tom Varndell to tackle the visiting wing into touch.

Both sides had chances to take regain the lead but Jones was wayward with a penalty and Ryan Mills’ long-range effort from inside his own half struck the right upright, Tindall charging down the clearance only for the ball to go dead.

But the home side did go into the break with the lead as Jones knocked over an easy penalty.

Almost immediately after the restart Cook had a penalty to level the game again but the full-back missed with another kick at the posts.

But Tindall helped Cook and Gloucester forget that moments later as he scored his first Premiership try for almost three years.

Tindall’s last try came against London Wasps on March 7 2010 and he was at it again against the Adams Park outfit as Mills sent him over, Cook adding the extras.

Jones was handed an easy penalty to get his side back into the game before Vunipola’s quick-thinking had wing Wade bursting into life.

Wade had hardly had a sniff in the first half but evaded Robson on the right wing to score his eighth Aviva Premiership try of the season, Jones converting for a 23-17 lead.

This was the last involvement Jones had as he was replaced by Nicky Robinson who came on against his former club.

But the attention was at the other end of the pitch as Cook’s poor day with the boot continued when he missed another close-range penalty.

Joe Simpson looked the make the most of this mistake as he broke through the Gloucester line and looked to send Varndell over in the left corner, only for some desperate defending from Sharples to knock him into touch.

But Vunipola gave Wasps some breathing space with ten minutes left as he burst out of the back of a maul, stayed strong despite three Gloucester players trying to tackle him, and put the ball down – Robinson converting.

And as it proved Wasps needed this extra cushion as Mills scored his first Aviva Premiership try and then Sharples went over to bring the visitors back to within four points.

But the home side held on to keep hold of fourth spot thanks to a fifth-consecutive league victory.

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