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Despite the appalling conditions, Wasps played some of their best rugby of the season to date to secure their emphatic victory. However, it did come at a price as England captain Phil Vickery had to be helped from the pitch in the second half after he appeared to be punched as he entered a ruck. As a result of the blow, Vickery has sustained a concussion and will now be doubtful for England's Six Nations crunch match with France at Twickenham next Sunday.
Before his departure, Vickery had played his part in a strong forwards performance that saw them dominate Bristol's experienced and much vaunted pack from early in the match, laying a platform from which the home backs could attack. Three tries, from Lewsey, Reddan and replacement Doherty, were Wasps reward for their good work and they were unlucky to miss out on the bonus point after hammering away at the Bristol line for the last ten minutes, having two more tries disallowed in the second half.
It was the first time that Bristol have failed to get on the scoreboard in ten seasons, and Wasps solid discipline meant the visitors kicking metronome, Jason Strange, did not even get a sniff at the posts for the full 80 minutes. Indeed, but for a brief period of pressure in the final quarter, Bristol's attacking opportunities were negligible in what coach Richard Hill acknowledged as their worst performance of the season to date.
By contrast, Wasps were creating chances from the kick off, Mark Van Gisbergen running the ball back early to allow Wasps to create a huge overlap for Lewsey to exploit. It was too good to be true however. Lewsey couldn't hold on to Waldouck's long pass that put him in space, but he was spared any blushes as referee Roy Maybank whistled for an earlier infringement.
Shortly after, Alex King's charge down allowed the forwards their first of many good mauling drives during the match, and they made good yardage to threaten the Bristol line before losing their footing and surrendering possession to the defending team.
Though both sides made early handling errors as they tested each other under the high ball, it was Wasps who were asserting themselves in the set piece. Furthermore, as the forwards continued to find success in mauling the ball, behind them eventual Man of the Match Dominic Waldouck was looking lively and finding some gaps with his jinking runs in midfield.
As Wasps turned the screw up front, Bristol began to concede penalties and Alex King got his side off the mark with three points in the 18th minute, though he was off target with a further two opportunities before the half hour mark.He made up for it by launching an attack for Wasps first try, dead on 30 minutes, that culminated in a clear run for Josh Lewsey to slide in at the right corner. It was King's change of direction that initially wrong footed the defence, and after good work from Waldouck and Vickery, quick ball allowed Tom Rees to find Waldouck again, straightened up nicely, and allowing Van Gisbergen to fix the last man and put Lewsey in for the score.
Reddan stretched the Wasps lead just before half time with a neat individual display of skill for the second try. Tom Palmer set things off with a burst up the blind from a ruck, offloading to the supporting Reddan on his inside. The scrum half them prodded a nicely weighted grubber kick up the touch line to evade the covering defence and collect the ball to slide in at the corner flag. King's conversion sent Wasps in 15-0 at the half way mark.
Wasps lost a little of their momentum after the restart, but with Mark Van Gisbergen taking up the kicking duties from an off-colour King, the full back kept the scoreboard ticking over with two more penalties in the 50th and 60th minutes.
The home side re-found their attacking dynamism after Van Gisbergen's first successful pot at goal. First a break down he left saw Lewsey linking up with Simon Shaw and then Vickery, who swatted off the attentions of two defenders before charging into the opposition 22. If he has seen Fraser Waters on his shoulder, Wasps may have been in for their third, but sadly it was not to be as the England captain was brought down 10 metres short giving Bristol time to reorganise their defence.
Next Tom Voyce found space counter-attacking through the midfield, Waldouck on his shoulder continuing the charge to the line. The centre was hauled down but quick ball came out for Lewsey to score, only for referee Roy Maybank to signal a knock on and scrum to Bristol.
The Waldouck - Waters combination in midfield continued to create chances for Wasps as the final quarter got under way, but it was another break down the narrow side, this time from Lewsey's replacement David Doherty, that gave Wasps their third try, Mark Van Gisbergen helping drive the England U20 man over the line for the touch down after some good build up play in centre field from the forwards.
It was at this point, after play had continued around a prone Vickery as Wasps attacked for the try, that the England captain was helped from the pitch after suffering the blow that felled him at the fringe of a ruck.
Wasps came agonisingly close to the fourth, bonus point try as the final minutes unfolded. First Doherty's would-be second try was disallowed after a forward pass, then replacement fly half James Brooks made a break to open up the line for Van Gisbergen, but the full back could not hold onto the ball in the very wet conditions. Voyce and Doherty continued to attack and the forwards too enjoyed a drive for the line after Wasps had kept the ball alive for a good period with the clock on zero, but they finally lost possession and had to settle for four points only at the final whistle.
Speaking after the game, Wasps' coaches Ian McGeechan and Shaun Edwards were very pleased with their side's performance. Edwards said, 'The bonus point would have been good, but that's as good a performance as I've seen from us in the five years I've been here. Our accuracy, against a top four team, was very good and we were tactically perfect today.'
Quizzed by the media on Vickery's injury, McGeechan said, 'Vicks took a heavy blow to the chin and we took him off straight away, we didn't want to mess about.'
On his team's performance McGeechan was admiring, 'Our focus was excellent today, in atrocious conditions, and I think the players concentrated well on what makes our game tick
'We knew how well Bristol had been going this season, and their place in the top two has been deserved, so we knew that we had to be in top shape today. I think we managed the conditions and the game very well; we didn't try and force things, which perhaps we have been guilty of in recent weeks, and I think we actually did better than we had anticipated.'