Wasps' South African import not enough top stop Gloucester comeback
SUNDAY WRAP: Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit sparked a spectacular second-half fightback as Gloucester launched their Premiership campaign with a 27-21 victory over Wasps at Kingsholm.
In the other match on Sunday, Sale survived a Northampton fightback to get their campaign off to a winning start.
Gloucester only missed out on a place in the title play-offs by two points last season.
But they looked way off that form as Wasps surged 21 points clear before the interval through tries for flyhalf Charlie Atkinson, Brad Shields and centre Burger Odendaal, while Atkinson converted all three scores.
But flying wing Rees-Zammit signalled a turning of the tide when he broke away to score from just inside Gloucester’s 22, and scrumhalf Charlie Chapman added a second try in two minutes during the third quarter.
Adam Hastings added a conversion and penalty, before Gloucester were awarded a penalty try 12 minutes from time, with Wasps seeing two players yellow-carded in rapid succession.
With Wasps still down to 13 players, lock Freddie Clarke completed Gloucester’s stirring response by crashing over from close range and securing a bonus point in the process.
Wasps suffered a blow just seven minutes into the game when Italy international fullback Matteo Minozzi limped off and was replaced by Ali Crossdale.
Despite such an early setback, Wasps dominated territory and possession, with scrum-half Dan Robson looking to exploit space around the fringes.
And they should have taken a 15th-minute lead following sustained pressure near Gloucester’s line, but Barbeary spilled Robson’s pass as Gloucester ran out of defensive numbers.
Barbeary then looked to have put Wasps ahead, yet his try was disallowed for obstruction by lock Kiran McDonald before his team-mate touched down.
Wasps, though, scored from their next attack as Atkinson weaved his way over from close range and converted to open up a 7-0 lead.
Atkinson missed a 25-metre penalty chance, and Gloucester could barely get out of their own half before Wasps stung them with a high-class try early in the second quarter.
Prop John Ryan surged through a midfield to set up the opportunity before Atkinson’s exquisite pass sent Shields over for a try that the fly-half converted.
It was all too easy for Wasps, and Gloucester conceded a third try during 10 damaging minutes when Odendaal smashed through a wafer-thin defence to score, and Atkinson’s conversion took the visitors past 20 points.
Shields departed the action just before half-time after suffering an injury – he was replaced by his fellow England international Jack Willis – and Gloucester had a mountain to climb, trailing 21-0.
Gloucester needed something to spark them, and Rees-Zammit obliged just three minutes into the second period, sprinting 90 metres for a spectacular score that saw him evade the clutches of Crossdale and Josh Bassett.
The Wasps defence was breached again just two minutes later, with new signing Albert Tuisue involved in a flowing move that ended in Chapman touching down and Hastings converting.
A Hastings penalty cut the gap to six points, setting up an intriguing final quarter as Wasps desperately tried to rediscover their first-half authority.
But their cause was not helped by flanker Tom Willis being yellow-carded, and when Gloucester were awarded a penalty try, replacement Biyi Alo was sin-binned for pulling down a maul, leaving Wasps two players down.
Gloucester predictably turned the screw, given their numerical advantage, and Clarke’s 74th-minute try rounded things off as the home side prevailed despite Wasps exerting pressure in the closing seconds, but the visitors had to be content with a losing bonus point.
* In the other match, after a well-contested opening period in which the hosts scored the only try, the Saints were blown away by three quickfire Sale scores mid-way through the second half to trail 29-3.
Phil Dowson’s men hit back with three tries of their own late on, but it was not enough as they fell to a 29-22 defeat.
There was a rather subdued atmosphere inside and outside the AJ Bell Stadium ahead of kick-off before the players lined up for an impeccably-observed minute’s silence in memory of the Queen, followed by an emotional rendition of the new national anthem.
Once the action started, a tackle off the ball handed Saints’ James Grayson an early chance to kick a routine penalty.
Just as the game was threatening to match the mood, Sale scored a cracking opening try to get the home supporters off their seats.
The dynamic Gus Warr dived over following a smart burst after he had played a neat one-two with Springbok Dan du Preez, and Rob du Preez added the extras to make it 7-3 to the hosts.
Alex Sanderson’s men were beginning to stamp their authority on proceedings and Manu Tuilagi was becoming more and more influential in the middle after 16 weeks out of action.
But some gutsy Sale defending was also keeping Northampton at bay, despite the efforts of lively scrum-half Alex Mitchell.
Both sides sought to boss possession and it remained that way until three minutes before the break.
At that point Rob du Preez kicked another three-pointer after the hosts dominated another scrum to leave Sale with a 10-3 interval lead.
The closely-contested theme continued in the early stages of the second period, although Sale were pressing hard on the Saints’ 22.
The visitors were under mounting pressure just in front of their own line and they finally succumbed in the 54th minute.
Luke James eventually cruised over the line on the right after a hard-fought scrum win on the opposite side of the pitch, with Rob du Preez again converting to stretch Sale’s lead to 17-3.
Within minutes Sam James was perfectly teed up by Tom Roebuck to go over and all of a sudden another precise Rob du Preez conversion had Sale 24-3 to the good.
When Tom O’Flaherty dived over for a debut try after James’ precise kick through Sale were 29-3 ahead and on the road to a big victory.
The Saints came roaring back, though, and two tries from Tom Collins and an Ollie Sleightholme score, two converted superbly by Grayson, brought the score back to 29-22 and earned a losing bonus point.
But the damage had already been done and Sale managed to cling on for the opening-round win.
All Sunday’s scores and scorers are below …
Gloucester 27-21 Wasps
Tries: Rees-Zammit, Chapman, Clarke, Penalty try
Cons: Hastings, Penalty try does not require a conversion
Tries: Atkinson, Shields, Odendaal
Cons: Atkinson 3
Yellow cards: Tom Willis (Wasps, 66), Biyi Alo (Wasps, 67)
Gloucester: 15 Lloyd Evans, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Harry Taylor, 6 Ruan Ackermann (captain), 5 Alex Craig, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Harry Elrington.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Val Rapava-Ruskin, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Cameron Jordan, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Kyle Moyle.
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Brad Shields, 6 Tom Willis, 5 Kiran McDonald, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 John Ryan, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Robin Hislop.
Replacements: 16 Dan Frost, 17 Elliot Millar-Mills, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Ben Morris, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Will Porter, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Ali Crossdale.
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe
Assistant referees: Simon Harding, James Clarke
TMO: Ian Tempest
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints
For Sale Sharks
Tries: Warr, L James, S James, O’Flaherty
Cons: R du Preez 3
Pen: R du Preez
Tries: Collins 2, Sleightholme
Cons: Grayson 2
Yellow card: Courtnall Skosan (Northampton Saints, 30)
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Gus Warr, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry (captain), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Matt Postlethwaite, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Arron Reed.
Northampton Saints: 15 Tom Collins, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Fraser Dingwall (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Aaron Hinkley, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Alex Coles, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Tom James, 22 Tom Litchfield, 23 George Furbank.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson, Wayne Falla
TMO: Dean Richards
Sources: PA & RugbyPass