Before yesterday’s Varsity finale at the Ricoh Arena there was the small matter of an Aviva Premiership game, with leaders Wasps taking on Gloucester. Wasps outside centre Jimmy Gopperth hogged the headlines as he spearheaded Wasps 35-22 win, scoring 25 points himself.
Wasps boasted star names that even the part-time Rugby fan (e.g. me) would know, including Kurtley Beale, Danny Cipriani and Christian Wade. Gloucester had England internationals Billy Twelvetrees and Ben Morgan and the former opened the scoring with a penalty. Wasps responded immediately, putting the Gloucester line under pressure. Danny Cipriani and Christian Wade broke through in quick succession but were thwarted, before a move along the line reached Jimmy Gopperth. Gopperth dived for the line and looked to have planted his hand off the pitch before touching down. The decision went to the TMO and the ball was adjudged to have – just – gone down first. The conversion was missed, but it was advantage Wasps.
Wasps boasted star names that even the part-time Rugby fan (e.g. me) would know, including Kurtley Beale, Danny Cipriani and Christian Wade
The match settled into a war of attrition, with a hamstring injury to Wasps inside centre Kyle Eastmond the most notable event. The resulting scrum saw Gloucester break to within inches of the home side’s line, but the chance seemed to have gone when Wade got his fingers to a pass out wide. Within a couple of phases Gloucester had a two-on-one and James Hook trotted over, with Billy Twelvetrees providing the extra two points.
The home support continued to get behind their side, yet Gloucester were the team with all the territory. Wasps began to take the initiative once again and the pressure told: Gopperth kicking over to reduce the deficit to two. This was greeted most enthusiastically by a group of (very) young fans behind us. Two minutes before half-time the home side finally retook the lead. A mall started fully 20 metres from the Gloucester try line kept advancing, and advancing…and advancing. The visiting defence were helpless against the pressure and Gopperth was once again the man with ball in hand – converting his own try made it Jimmy Gopperth 15-10 Gloucester at the break. The half time period went painfully slowly, as the cringe-worthy ‘Wasps wiggle’ took centre stage.
Armed with coffee and a biscuit from the fabulous media centre, it was time for the second half. Once again Gloucester opened the scoring – after initially behind held up under the posts, the ball was recycled out to the left wing for David Halaifonua to score. All square with 45 played. Wasps replied immediately with the move of the match: number 8 Alex Rieder broke through but was tackled, but the play was kept alive. A Cipriani grubber found Thomas Youngs, who offloaded inside for Willie LeRoux to dive over. The ever-reliable Gopperth kicked over.
The mood briefly dropped, until that man Gopperth made the difference again
The scoring died down, with another Gopperth penalty the only score for over 20 minutes. On 66 minutes a potential game-clinching try was ruled out after a Wasps move beginning in their own 22. Josh Bassett looked to have grounded the ball but the replays showed that he was held up and Gloucester cleared the resulting danger. Suddenly, out of nothing it was all to play for. Seconds later, a break down the left hand side was finished by Gloucester’s Matt Scott, with Twelvetrees’ successful conversion making it 25-22 with eight remaining.
The mood briefly dropped, until that man Gopperth made the difference again. Another mall was far too powerful for the Gloucester defence and Wasps’ number 13 touched down. He even missed the conversion, presumably to show he’s not superman. The afternoon was capped off by a flowing move ending with Wade stumbling over in the right corner, but the day was all about Gopperth.