Gloucester climbed to fourth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with a hard-earned 10-9 win over Wasps at Adams Park.
The Cherry and Whites had racked up a 10-0 lead by the break thanks to a try from wing James Simpson-Daniel and a conversion and penalty from fly-half Nicky Robinson. Robinson’s kicking boots deserted him after the break as he missed three further penalty attempts, but Dave Walder’s three successful kicks were not enough for the hosts.
But there was bad news for both sides as a gripping contest was marred by the sight of former England wings Tom Varndell and James Simpson-Daniel leaving the pitch on stretchers with what looked like serious ankle injuries.
Wasps welcomed back number eight John Hart for his first game of the season following a shoulder operation last summer, but Gloucester were forced to make two late changes when Olly Morgan and Alex Brown withdrew with injuries sustained in training.
They switched Charlie Sharples to full-back, recalled Tom Voyce to the wing and former Wales lock Will James came in for Brown. Driving rain had soaked the pitch before kick-off, and Gloucester targeted Ben Jacobs immediately, launching high balls towards the centre as he tried to adapt to his unfamiliar role at full-back.
Wasps should have made more of a great 12th-minute break by Joe Simpson, taken on by Joe Worsley, but the flanker’s decision to pass wide to Hart rather than inside was a mistake because Hart kicked ahead, and the threat died.
The conditions led to a number of knocks-ons, and referee Dean Richards was busy setting a succession of scrums, but both teams set our their stall from the kick-off – to attack. And although Wasps had the edge in early possession, it was Gloucester who were first on the scoreboard after 17 minutes.
Wasps captain Joe Ward blundered by batting back a high kick from Sharples that was missed by Jacobs, and Simpson-Daniel was on the loose ball like a flash, scooting clear to score by the posts, Robinson adding the conversion.
As the rain intensified, Jacobs was under pressure from the high balls aimed his way, and it seemed odd that former England full-back Mark van Gisbergen was perched on the Wasps bench. Another Wasps mistake, this time being lazy in retreating, handed Gloucester a penalty on 25 minutes, and Robinson’s kick was spot-on.
Gloucester came into the game with questions being asked about their scrum, but there was little wrong about their scrummaging during the first half at Adams Park, adding to the problems confronted by Wasps.
Walder drilled home a penalty with his first opportunity at goal of the evening early in the second half and within 60 seconds Gloucester were caught offside and Walder doubled his and Wasps’ tally with another accurate kick. Gloucester hit back and forced a penalty on 52 minutes, but the angle out wide proved too acute for Robinson whose attempt fell short.
Richard Birkett then hauled down a maul in the 55th minute, escaped a yellow card, and watched as Robinson missed his second penalty attempt in three minutes. Wasps were sharper during the second half, and it was no surprise when Van Gisbergen came on at full-back in the 60th minute, with Jacobs replacing Richard Haughton on the wing.
Gloucester were unlucky to concede a 64th minute penalty, awarded against Akapusi Qera who looked to have been punched in the face by Serge Betsen. Worse for the visitors, Walder rifled it home from 40 metres. Wasps created a strong scoring opportunity following a 13-phase series of rucks only for Walder’s attempted drop-goal to fly low and wide as Gloucester held out before Robinson missed another late penalty chance for the visitors.