Tom Varndell celebrated his return to Aviva Premiership action with a try as London Wasps claimed a bonus point 38-30 victory over Gloucester Rugby in The Stinger to steal a march in the race for Europe.
Tries from James Haskell, Varndell and Elliot Daly gave Wasps an eight-point advantage at the break, with Gloucester posting an early Jonny May try and 11 points from the boot of Billy Twelvetrees.
Ashley Johnson powered over for the Londoners on the hour mark and though Huia Edmonds responded for Gloucester, Haskell grabbed his second score of the game to cap a fine showing.
With Exeter Chiefs losing heavily at home to Sale Sharks, the result lifted Wasps up to seventh and into pole position for the play-off spot for next year’s European Rugby Champions Cup.
Freddie Burns added a late intercept try for Gloucester to narrow the gap again to eight points but they failed to claim a losing bonus score.
After the crowd were treated to a set from Little Mix, the Wasps faithful were given reason to continue cheering when Haskell went over for the first try after 11 minutes.
Haskell crossed following a great break from Nathan Hughes – touching down despite a great defensive effort from Rob Cook. Andy Goode successfully converted to put Wasps 7-0 to the good,
Just two minutes later, Wasps immediately gifted Gloucester a way back into the game as an error from try-scorer Haskell allowed May run onto Cook’s kick through and touch down for his tenth try of the season.
Twelvetrees converted to level the scores but Wasps regained the lead through Goode’s boot on 19 minutes and just three minutes later Varndell intercepted a Twelvetrees pass in midfield and ran home from 40 yards for his first Aviva Premiership try of the season – Wasps welcoming back the winger after three months out with a bicep tear.
Gloucester remained in touch as Twelvetrees successfully kicked penalties after 28 and 31 minutes.
With the break nearing, Daly extended Wasps’ advantage on 36 minutes, touching down following a break and offload from captain Chris Bell – Goode converting with ease giving Wasps a 24-16 lead at half-time.
Wasps were reduced to 14 men just two minutes into the second half when Will Helu was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on.
Wasps secured the try-scoring bonus point on 59 minutes when the powerful Johnson burst through the Gloucester defence after the London club spent ten minutes inside Gloucester’s 22. Goode converted to give Wasps a deserved 15 point lead.
Gloucester responded with great heart and after 64 minutes prop Edmonds found just enough space to break through the Wasps backline and put Gloucester back in the game.
On 72 minutes flanker Haskall scored his second try of the game, bursting over from a ruck five yards from the line – Joe Carlisle converted his first attempt of the day and restored Wasps’ 15-point lead.
On 74 minutes Johnson became the second Wasps man to go into the sin-bin for another deliberate knock-on.
Just two minutes later Burns intercepted and ran over between the posts – Twelvetrees converted to put Gloucester eight points behind with just four minutes remaining.
Wasps were reduced to 13 men on 77 minutes when Andrea Masi blocked off Sharples as he kicked and chased the ball towards the try line but Wasps held out for the win.