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Away wins still elusive for Wasps
GLOUCESTER 29, WASPS 22.
WASPS are approaching a year without an away win after going down 29-22 at Gloucester this afternoon.
Despite both sides being renown for expansive, fluent rugby, this match didn't quite build on a promising opening quarter and in the end it was Gloucester's dominant kicking game – off the tee and from hand - that decided it.
Dai Young's team were to some degree architects of their own downfall though.
Their propensity for shipping a raft of points in double quick time reared its head again, with the Cherry and Whites cashing in between minutes 22 and 29 to plunder 17 points.
In a league as competitive as the Aviva Premiership cold spells like that, or dips in focus, will almost always prove terminal and that burst was ultimately telling in the final reckoning.
The black and golds nearly rescued it in a frantic finale as they kept the ball alive for a full three minutes in a bid to snatch a draw, probing left and right inside the Gloucester 22.
But it didn't happen for them, and they go to Franklin's Gardens next Friday night with three defeats from four this season.
Gloucester won an entertaining first 40 by seven points, although their advantage might have been greater after the Cherry and Whites hit the visitors with two irresistible surges.
The first came straight from kick off, and Wasps had already absorbed a handful of purposeful drives when Freddie Burns forced his way over the line after two minutes.
An earlier knock on saved Wasps though and when their scrum held firm on the try line they were able to clear the danger and exhale.
With the first wave repelled, Wasps met Gloucester toe to toe for the next 15 minutes. Each side showed great attacking intent and Wasps should have crossed the line when they put the phases together to open up Gloucester on the right.
But Jonathan Poff took the ball into contact when it would have been a walk in try for either Elliot Daly or Christian Wade, who were waiting outside him.
Instead, a penalty each meant it was 3-3 with a quarter gone, when Gloucester hit Wasps with a second wave. And this time Wasps' defence buckled.
First James Simpson-Daniel weaved inside Joe Simpson and then burst through T Rhys Thomas and Tommy Bell to go under the posts.
Burns converted from in front of the posts, and just minutes later they were in again when Sione Kalamafoni burst out of a melee and held off Simpson's wrap-around tackle to score their second try.
Again Burns did the honours and in nine minutes Wasps had gone from 3-3 to 20-3 behind.
Kingsholm, awash with red and white, was on its feet while the smattering of Wasps fans must have wondered what had hit them.
Not for the first time they'd seen their team concede a cluster of points in a matter of moments, and a game that had been a good, even contest seemed suddenly to have been yanked away from them.
And it might have been had the black and golds not responded almost immediately.
Direct from Stephen Jones' restart Wasps won possession, fed Elliot Daly and the 19-year-old side-stepped Henry Trinder to rush over in the corner.
Jones converted from the touchline, and the visitors had another fillip on the stroke of half time when Bell bounced back from what had been, until then, a difficult debut to land a 60m penalty that made it 20-13 at the interval. The boot continued to dominate in the second half too, with three more Burns penalties and two from Jones taking the score to 29-19 after an hour.
There was still little between the sides, but Gloucester's surgical kicking was proving the difference as time and time again Wasps would battle their way into opposition territory, turn it over and then find themselves trotting back 50m for a defensive line-out.
That's why so many of Gloucester's penalties were translated to three points and why Wasps needed a slice of luck when Simpson tore after Christian Wade's kick.
He was behind the defence, but Billy Twelvetrees caught up with him as he stooped to gather five metres out.
Wasps claimed their nine had been taken out off the ball, but after endless replays referee Martin Fox found in favour of the defence.
If that wasn't the decisive blow, then the yellow card for captain Marco Wentzel with 17 minutes left certainly was.
Wasps did well not to go further behind in that period, and there was some consolation when replacement Nick Robinson knocked over a penalty four minutes from time to earn his side a losing bonus point.