Gloucester Rugby finally ended their Ricoh Arena hoodoo on Saturday as two tries from Charlie Sharples plus further scores from Ben Vellacott and Lewis Ludlow saw the Cherry and Whites clinch an impressive 21-35 Gallagher Premiership Rugby victory over Wasps.
It was Gloucester Rugby’s first ever Premiership at the Ricoh Arena, and the first on Wasps’ territory since a 10-9 success back in February 2011.
Based on a fantastic platform created up front by the pack, the performance was even more impressive given that the Cherry and Whites had to overcome Wasps taking an early lead, and then had to withstand a couple of determined fightbacks from their hosts.
On this occasion, Gloucester Rugby stayed strong in the final quarter and actually finished the better. As time ticked on, they carried on pouring forward in numbers, winning the physical collisions and playing on the front foot.
It’s also a morale-boosting outcome given that the Gallagher Premiership takes a break for a few weeks now. The Cherry and Whites currently sit in fourth place with three wins and a draw from their six matches, and can now focus on the Heineken Champions Cup in good spirits.
Castres are the opposition at Kingsholm next Sunday (kick off 1pm), and nothing less than a performance of this standard will be sufficient against the Top 14 champions. But it’s a happy Cherry and White camp for now.
It was a poor start for Gloucester Rugby on the day as a loose lineout tap gifted possession for Wasps. The home team moved downfield and, although nothing looked on, Dan Robson dummied his way clear from a ruck on the 22 to beat the last man and scamper home. Billy Searle converted for 7-0 after four minutes.
The Cherry and Whites had to spend the next few minutes soaking up more pressure in defence, and their trips into Wasps territory were few and far between. There was a further score on 12 minutes as Robson chased a grubber through but the ball ran dead.
But the visitors then caught Wasps napping with a quickly taken drop out. Danny Cipriani made a telling break, before exchanging passes with Ben Vellacott then rolling a kick ahead for Vellacott to gather and score. Cipriani converted what was an excellent try.
Gloucester Rugby then showed real ambition by kicking to the corner, but the forward drive was held out. Charlie Sharples almost jinked his way to the line, but Wasps turned the ball over at the breakdown. However, Wasps did infringe at a subsequent breakdown and Cipriani’s penalty gave his team a 7-10 advantage after 23 minutes.
And the Cherry and Whites promptly stunned the home crowd with another beauty from the restart. The pack drove possession up powerfully before releasing the ball. Tom Hudson showed sensational feet to make a key break, before perfectly timing the pass to Sharples who had the gas to score. Cipriani added the conversion.
And it could have been even better as Jake Polledri ran through on to a grubber ahead from Mark Atkinson, hacked ahead but just couldn’t hold on to the ball as it dipped ahead of him with the line beckoning.
But Gloucester Rugby kept on pressing and, although Wasps defended their line gallantly, it wasn’t always legal and Cipriani was able to stretch the lead to 7-20 with a 38th minute penalty.
However, Wasps could have had the final word of the half as Billy Searle took on a penalty attempt with the last kick of the half only to miss badly.
It had been an impressive comeback from Gloucester Rugby after the early setback, and they’d shown just how dangerous they could be with ball in hand.
It had been a slightly muted first 40 minutes from their hosts, but there could be no doubt about the quality Wasps possess in their squad and a response was to be expected.
And Gloucester Rugby quickly found themselves under real pressure as they failed to deal with a kick through near their own line, Hudson’s offload catching Vellacott by surprise.
A couple of five metre scrums followed, and the visitors defended stoutly. However, Wasps kept probing and eventually Elliot Daly found the space to show his pace and ghost through and dive over. Searle converted to narrow the gap to 14-20.
The Cherry and Whites dug deep and pinned Wasps back over the following minutes, and deservedly won a scrum penalty in front of the posts. Cipriani had no trouble kicking the penalty and making the score 14-23 after 58 minutes.
The home team were still not out of this though, and hit back on 63 minutes. Gloucester Rugby repelled a couple of forward drives, a key Grobler lineout steal helping matters, but a Hampson grubber into the in goal area created panic and De Jongh touched down the loose ball. Searle converted for 21-23.
Alarm bells were potentially ringing amongst the Gloucester Rugby followers, but their team were in no mood to let this one slip away.
Charlie Sharples went over in the right hand corner for his second try, although the final pass from Jason Woodward looked forward. Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys seemed in no doubt, but Danny Cipriani took a quick drop-goal conversion, which hit the post, to rule out any possibility of the TMO becoming involved.
Wasps were still only a converted try behind, but Gloucester Rugby were now firing on all cylinders, particularly in defence where they were smashing everything that moved.
And it was perhaps fitting that the pack had the last word, working patiently through the phases deep in the Wasps 22 before Lewis Ludlow forced his way over under the posts for the bonus point try. Cipriani converted to conclude a fine win for Gloucester Rugby.