London Wasps 36 Gloucester 24
A SECOND-HALF comeback was not enough as Gloucester crashed out of Europe after being stung by London Wasps.
The hosts struck either side of the interval with close range tries from Matt Mullan and Carlo Festuccia to open up a 20-point lead at Adams Park.
But following a sluggish first 50 minutes, the Cherry and Whites sparked into life and both Jonny May and Gareth Evans pounced while the hosts were down to 14.
With the momentum behind them it looked as though Gloucester could complete a remarkable turnaround but Andy Goode kept the scoreboard ticking and William Helu snatched the winner.
Martyn Thomas crossed at the death but it was too little, too late for the brave Cherry and Whites after the damage was done in the first half where they were outmuscled and thought in every department.
Nigel Davies had made just three changes to the side that defeated Exeter Chiefs last week with Henry Trinder, Dan George and James Hudson coming into the starting line-up.
With Ryan Mills injured, Billy Twelvetrees was set to be handed the number 10 jersey but the Cherry and Whites were forced into a late reshuffle after Mike Tindall strained his calf in the warm-up and was forced to pull out.
That saw Freddie Burns start at fly-half for the first time since the beginning of March but the out-of-sorts star could do little to inspire his side.
Thomas Young, the son of Wasps director of rugby Dai, took Burns’ place among the replacement, while Dan Murphy also came into the match-day 23, as an emergency hooker, after Huia Edmonds failed a fitness test.
The hosts made a bright start at High Wycombe and almost capitalised on an early Jonny May mistake as they hacked through.
Joe Simpson comfortably won the foot race against covering Ben Morgan but he was unable to scoop the ball up for a try in wet conditions.
Wasps continued to dominate the majority of play yet they were unable to turn pressure into points until Andy Goode slotted a drop goal on 13 minutes.
They had the opportunity to double their lead mid-way through the half after forcing a penalty from a Gloucester scrum but Goode pulled his kick across the face of goal.
Moments later Matt Kvesic charged down a Goode clearance but Burns and Twelvetrees were unable to capitalise as Wasps scrambled.
The hosts took a major stride towards victory on the half-hour mark when Mullan powered over. A trio of sublime offloads made the initial inroads and put Gloucester on the racks.
The Cherry and Whites eventually conceded a penalty, which Wasps kicked to the corner and after a succession of pick and drives, the England loose-head prop crossed.
Goode added the extras before Rob Cook responded with Gloucester’s first-points but the home fly-half was once again on target to restore his side’s 10-point advantage.
Moments later Cook fired a simple effort wide, while Goode sliced a drop-goal as the score remained 13-3 at the interval.
Wasps came swarming out of the changing rooms in the second-half and stung Gloucester within four minutes of the restart.
Goode almost unlocked the Cherry with a sublime chip for Andrea Masi but the Italian was held short. Nathan Hughes almost bulldozed over from the ensuing scrum and the hosts went through the phases.
Festuccia eventually burrowed over and following and following an age of consultations with TMO Alan Falzone, Marius Mitrea awarded the try despite what appeared a blatant knock on from James Haskell in the build-up.
Goode converted the try as Wasps appeared out of reach, with a 20-point lead but they were dealt a blow when Nathan Hughes was sent to the sin-bin.
Gloucester quickly took advantage of their numerical supremacy as Burns’ miss-pass allowed May to slide into the left-hand corner to hand his side a glimmer of hope and Cook converted superbly.
The Cherry and Whites appeared a totally different team following the try and played with renewed physicality and accuracy as they fought back.
They kicked to the corner on the hour mark and Evans spun off the back of a rolling maul to bulldoze over.
Cook converted from virtually the same spot as Nigel Davies’ side threatened an emphatic comeback but Goode kept the scoreboard ticking with a pair of penalties.
Gloucester continued to press but Wasps swarmed on the counter-attack and they put the result beyond doubt when Elliott Daly’s chip cruelly evaded Charlie Sharples and fell to Helu, with Goode stretching his tally to 21-points.
Thomas squeezed in the corner in injury time and Cook converted again but all was already lost.
Andrea Masi (Charlie Hayter 35); James Short, Elliot Daly, Chris Bell (capt), Williams Helu; Andy Goode, Joe Simpson (Charlie Davies 77); Matt Mullan (Simon McIntyre 71), Carlo Festuccia (Tom Lindsay 57), Jake Cooper-Woolley (Phil Swainston 63), Joe Launchbury, Kearnan Myall (Tom Palmer 51), Sam Jones (Guy Thompson 66), James Haskell, Nathan Hughes
Tries – M Mullan, C Festuccia, W Helu; Con – A Goode (3); Pen – A Goode (4); Drop-goal – A Goode;
Rob Cook; Charlie Sharples, Henry Trinder, Billy Twelvetrees (capt), Jonny May; Freddie Burns (Martyn Thomas 71), Jimmy Cowan (Tavis Knoyle 50); Nick Wood (Yann Thomas 52), Dan George, Shaun Knight (Sila Puafisi 52); Elliott Stooke, James Hudson (Will James 47); Sione Kalamafoni, Matt Kvesic (Thomas Young 77), Ben Morgan (Gareth Evans 50)
Tries: J May, G Evans, M Thomas; Cons – R Cook (3); Pen – R Cook;
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Attendance: 5, 311