Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit sparked a spectacular second-half fightback as Gloucester launched their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a 27-21 victory over Wasps at Kingsholm.
Gloucester only missed out on a place in the title play-offs by two points last term.
But they looked way off that form as Wasps surged 21 points clear before the interval through tries for fly-half Charlie Atkinson, Brad Shields and centre Burger Odendaal, while Atkinson converted all three scores.
Come-back complete. ✅
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) September 11, 2022
But flying wing Rees-Zammit signalled a turning of the tide when he broke away to score from just inside Gloucester’s 22, and scrum-half 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.
A moving minute’s silence was held in memory of the Queen, who died on Thursday, being immediately followed by the national anthem as rugby continued to pay tribute.
Wasps suffered a blow just seven minutes into the game when Italy international full-back 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.