They said it would take some time, no matter the calibre of signing and the feeling of a fresh start in September. And it certainly is doing that. Halfway through the Premiership season Gloucester remain exactly where they were when Nigel Davies, their previous director of rugby, received his marching orders – which is to say in ninth place and worthy of it.
This time the indignity is seasoned by a second home defeat of the Christmas period, their fourth in five, eight days after the last. And that was a record defeat to their bitter enemies, Bath. The good people of Kingsholm may have expected a reaction after that. Wasps arrived buoyed – potentially distracted – by the success of their first outing in Coventry the weekend before, having not won away in the Premiership this season. You might have thought a good reaction from the Cherry and Whites would be enough to take it.
David Humphreys, the Gloucester director of rugby, admitted that his side were in desperate need of a home victory against Saracens next month after they slumped to a fourth defeat in six league games at Kingsholm this season.
Gloucester followed up their defeat by Bath last week with a shapeless first-half display in front of another Kingsholm full house.
That performance before half-time was only partly redeemed by a more committed second-half showing which salvaged a bonus point but could not deny Wasps their first away league win in nine months.
Humphreys arrived from Ulster during the summer to replace Nigel Davies, who was axed by Gloucester at the end of last season after the West Country club finished in ninth place and out of the European Champions Cup placings.
Humphreys arrived with long-term plans to revive Gloucester’s fortunes but there has been no obvious improvement under the former Ireland fly-half, who conceded that the short-term fix of a home win is now the priority.
Wasps euphorically claimed to have ‘got the monkey off our backs’ with this first away win in nine months, but Gloucester’s own pesky primate continues to weigh them down after yet another setback at home.
There was a full house at Kings-holm on Sunday but the mood of festive cheer in the renowned Shed was soon wiped away.
The hosts were desperate to atone for the emphatic loss at the hands of Bath at the same ground eight days earlier but instead they slumped to a fourth defeat in their last five home games in the Aviva Premiership. What was once an intimidating stronghold has become far too welcoming.
John Afoa, Gloucester’s World Cup-winning All Black prop, delivered his own damning assessment, adding: ‘It was really disappointing. You look at the body language of the boys — really down and out. We let another game slip through our fingers. We are down in confidence. Maybe some guys are not making the right calls.’
Gloucester continued to enjoy the ascendancy at the scrum in the second-half with Afoa winning a penalty for Twelvetrees to cut the deficit to seven points with a long-range shot.
The revival continued as Laidlaw added his first penalty of the afternoon and Gloucester survived a Wasps assault as the momentum continued to turn.
Dean Richards persisted to favour the Gloucester scrum and with Afoa firmly in the driving seat, Ladilaw cut the deficit to a single point with twenty minutes to go.
Goode responded when Richard Hibbard was pinged for pulling down a rolling maul but Gloucester continued to throw everything at Wasps.
However just like last week against Bath they failed to turn sustained periods of pressure into clear-cut try-scoring chances.
And any hope vanished as Elliot Daly slotted a long-range penalty after Ross Moriarty and Sione Kalamafoni were penalised for crossing.
Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young: “I’m really pleased to get this monkey off our back as you have to win on the road and beat the sides below you in the table if you want to stay in the mix.”
“We put in a poor performance at Exeter but apart from that we haven’t been a million miles away.”
“We were in control for the first 37 minutes but I was really disappointed with our second-half performance.”
“We knew Gloucester would come back at us but we turned over the ball seven times at first phases. We found a way to win as we were composed in the last five minutes, which was pleasing as we’ve thrown away a lot of games at that stage in the past.”
Gloucester Director of Rugby David Humphreys ” We wanted to make Kingsholm a difficult place to play but it’s not happening. We were flat and lacked edge in the first half but we had strong words at half-time and were much better afterwards.
“Kingsholm is a great place to play – with our second sell-out crowd – but we are not where we want to be. We know we have to get better and another home defeat will be a worry but if we show the energy that we did in the second half we will win matches.”
“This was an important group of four matches, we are two down and it’s not getting any easier. Going down to Exeter will be a huge challenge for us.”