By Rugby World reader, Mark Shanahan
The sun shone at the weekend: the ground’s firming up in the Chilterns and there was even the odd blade of grass emerging from the mud. And what does such a change in the seasons normally herald? Well, in the past, it has been Wasps’ run into form; the traditional black and gold charge towards the title.
To be honest, few beyond the coaching staff at Adams Park have been talking up Wasps’ chances of landing the Premiership this year. The side is far from vintage and further decimated by injury. Results have been patchy. All the positives to be drawn from wins over Saints, Tigers and Sarries – and doing the double over the less than mighty Quins – have been offset by losses to the Falcons at home, a heavy defeat at Welford Road and the ignominy of a defeat double to Leeds Carnegie. The last home win over Sarries was a ground-out affair with few try scoring opportunities. With free-scoring Gloucester the visitors on Sunday, we weren’t sure what to expect.
What we got was a good, close-fought Premiership game where Wasps edged the visitors two tries to one and took the four points with a 24-19 result that was in doubt ‘til Gloucester’s final indiscretion long after the clock had turned red. Both sides have their limitations: both fumbled the ball a little too often, both gave away dull penalties when attacking opportunities beckoned – though to be fair to both teams, referee Andrew Small had an off-day and would do well to look at the tapes and reassess his performance. But there were positives too. The aimless kicking tactic was left behind in the dressing room. Wasps have rediscovered the rolling maul and used it to effect and, best of all, each team’s natural attackers played with the freedom to do what comes naturally. For Gloucester, Mike Tindall was less of the bish and bosh of his England persona and far more the constructive centre, scything through a gap in the Wasps midfield of Red Sea proportions for his try. Jacobs, Sackey and Van Gisbergen were hungry for work for the home side and fizzed with the ball in hand. But it was left to the little master of offence that is David Lemi to cap a man of the match performance with a sublime try as he ghosted past two defenders to touch down in the corner. His try exemplified Wasps at their best.
So, Wasps have now achieved the double over Gloucester this season and may be recapturing their early-season form. But was this the one-off or the start of a roll to the play-offs? Much will be revealed when Wasps had north to tackle the fragile Sharks on Friday. Whisper it oh so quietly, but the black and gold may just have found their buzz again.