and out of the Heineken Cup
Wycombe Heineken Cup Sunday 11 April 2004
Wasps 34 Gloucester 3
THE PUNDIT’S PREDICTIONS were proved correct. Few of the Cherry and White supporters present at Wycombe realistically expected the visitors to win but by the same token they did not expect to receive another good hiding at the hands of Wasps.
For the second time in under twelve months Gloucester were outclassed and outplayed by Wasps who got just about everything right on the day and recorded a cup double over their opponents.
Last year in the Zurich Championship Final at Twickenham the Londoners rattled up 39 points with just 3 points scored in reply. This year in the Heineken Cup Quarter Final, they managed 34 with only 3 in reply.
It could have been worse. Last year Wasps scored three tries and Alex King added 24 points with his boot. This year Wasps scored 5 tries but King only managed 9 points, as thankfully for Gloucester, he missed a handful of kicks.
The final winning margin may have flattered the home side but there was no denying the fact that Wasps were much superior to Gloucester and overwhelmed them in all aspects of their game.
Any thoughts Gloucester fans may have harboured that the Twickenham debacle was just an unfortunate one-off were quickly dispelled as Wasps denied their opponents possession from the kick-off and with virtually no ball Gloucester took half an hour to get into the Londoner’s territory.
Gloucester had managed to contain the home side for the first quarter but the signs were ominous as French referee Joel Judge, who was in charge of the two Munster games in Limerick, completely frustrated the Cherry and Whites again as almost all of his bewildering decisions went the way of the home side as penalties were conceded.
UNABLE TO SCORE
Scrum half Rob Howley worked his way over through some slack blind-side cover to get Wasps on the scoreboard. Within fifteen minutes it had gone from bad to worse for Gloucester as the referee awarded Wasps a harsh penalty try as they were prevented from using a driving maul..
Chris Fortey was sin-binned for offside at a ruck as Gloucester struggled to come to terms with the interpretations of the referee.
Another questionable decision by the referee awarded Lawrence Dallaglio a score as he was driven over from close range but there appeared to be more than a little doubt as to whether he grounded the ball but the try was given without bothering to trouble the video ref.
A penalty from Henry Paul meant that Gloucester were 19-3 down at half-time and needed to score early in the second half but it was Wasps who increased their lead to 21 points as hooker Trevor Leota touched down to put the Wasps well on the way to a weekend in Dublin.
Dallaglio was yellow carded but even though Wasps were a man short Gloucester could not get a score. Even a two man overlap was wasted as Jake Boer was driven into touch near the corner flag. Marcel Garvey made a couple of strong runs that came to nothing before Wasps had the last word.
Replacement Ayoola Erinie gratefully intercepted a loose pass to run seventy yards to score and put the icing on the Wasps’ cake and drive the final nail in the Gloucester coffin.
After crushing both Northampton and Gloucester in successive matches Wasps will fancy their chances against Munster in their first ever Heineken Cup semi-final but they will have to contend with the massed ranks of Irishmen at Lansdowne Road.
For Gloucester, the present team is a bit like the old Kingsholm ground - in need of further investment to get it up to top class standard.
Quite where this will come from is unsure but there is no doubt a cash injection is overdue in order to retain key players and attract new players, let alone improve the ground.
Penalty: Paul 3