It’s never easy supporting Gloucester Rugby. After a big, if not entirely comfortable, opening night victory away at Newcastle Falcons, and a narrow defeat to league leaders Saracens, you may have forgiven us Cherry and White fans some optimism going into this weekend’s game against Wasps. The hosts have had a poorer start to the season than they would have hoped, but were able to easily brush aside Gloucester 23-3 at the Ricoh Arena.
Wasps 23 Gloucester 3
Wasps opened the scoring with a long range penalty from Elliot Daly and then followed with an excellent try through Christian Wade, with the set-up from debutant Charles Piutau cutting the Gloucester defence up far too easily. More penalties from Daly put Wasps in a commanding half time lead.
Substitute the fine details from that last paragraph and you have the template for most Gloucester away games. This isn’t a recent phenomenon either; not since the days of Dean Ryan and memories of topping the table have I ever been regularly confident of away wins against top half opponents. Giving opponents such a headstart away from home, and often without much resistance, is not going to help improve Gloucester’s league position.
Back to the game, and David Halaifonua’s late high tackle early in the second half resulted in a red card after a TMO consultation and effectively killed any minuscule hope of a comeback. Ironically, this was when Gloucester decided to wake up and play some rugby. Wasps were able to force a penalty try soon after and I feared the floodgates would open. However, the Cherry and Whites were able to dominate possession, but never really threaten the try line due to handling errors and turnovers. More away day disappointment criteria fulfilled. A second red card of the game, this time to Wasps hooker Carlo Festuccia levelled the playing field, but Gloucester still couldn’t breach the defence.
The positives from today? The scoreline was not as bad as it could have been following the red card, and Wasps will be disappointed not to have kicked on and gained the try bonus point. Secondly, the fact that the majority of Wasps’ penalties were from the big boot of Daly, from distances beyond most other kickers in the league. Thirdly, that Matt Kvesic is so obviously England’s answer at seven and continues to shine even in a team performance like this.
So after four games, Gloucester are back in their familiar ninth place, and it is difficult to see them pushing on from there at present. The attack isn’t penetrating enough given the vast array of talent available. For a start, Charlie Sharples should be moved back to the wing with Rob Cook coming back into the team at fullback. Following recent displays, Halaifonua’s absence from suspension should continue once the ban is complete, and the coaches need to settle on a centre partnership. Starting James Hook at 12 signalled that the coaches are doubting his position at fly half, and the continued trail of Billy Twelvetrees at 13 is not reaping rewards.
I said a mere two weeks ago after the narrow defeat to Saracens that my cup was just about half full. A large amount of optimism has spilled following this result. We now have a two week break from the Premiership for European competitions, and with Gloucester in the Challenge Cup again, the games against Zebre and La Rochelle are no-win situations for the Cherry and Whites. Wins are expected so defeats will just add fuel to the fire. Someone get me a lid for that cup, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.