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Simpson celebrates his score
On a glorious afternoon at the Memorial Stadium, Wasps ended their long wait for a try bonus point, with a comfortable victory over Bristol. In a highly entertaining game, they ran in five tries, all the result of enterprising rugby with a sensational solo effort from Joe Simpson the pick of the bunch. The result kept alive their outside chance of claiming seventh place in the Premiership and a possible Heineken Cup place. It also meant that Saturday’s final game of the season, at home to Gloucester, will be a must-win encounter for both sides.
Wasps made three late changes to their squad. In the front row Phil Vickery was replaced by Pat Barnard with Charlie Beech coming on to the bench. James Honeyben took Mark Robinson’s place as replacement scrumhalf and Marty Veale came in for the injured Richard Birkett.
Wasps began the game at a gallop, with some flowing rugby, in which skipper Tom Rees was prominent. They thought they’d opened their account after two minutes when Simon Shaw ended a sweeping move by going over in the corner but the referee ruled Danny Cipriani’s scoring pass forward. Pressure on the Bristol scrum resulted in Wasps winning the put-in, but the position was lost when Wasps were penalised under the home posts.
Mark Van Gisbergen charges for Wasps
With just eight minutes gone, Wasps were forced into making a substitution, when Paul Sackey limped off, after taking a knock on the leg he’d injured in the Six Nations. He was replaced by Lachlan Mitchell. Wasps again came close, when Josh Lewsey fielded a clearance and launched a counterattack which saw Mark Van Gisbergen scampering away down the left wing, before kicking ahead and just losing the race to touchdown. Wasps continued to hammer at the Bristol line and a series of powerful surges from the forwards stretched the defence to the limits before another Wasps offence at the breakdown relieved the pressure.
Fifteen minutes of complete dominance finally brought their reward, when Danny Cipriani landed a straightforward kick, after Simon Shaw had charged down Luke Arscott’s clearance and Bristol conceded a penalty on their 22.
Bristol mounted their first serious attack when David Lemi came into the line to create an overlap, following a scrum on the Wasps 22, but Lee Robinson could not hang on to his pass. After losing possession from the resultant scrum, Wasps were penalised and Ed Barnes levelled the scores with a simple kick. The home side then again set up another chance out wide on the right, but Robinson could not hang on to an awkward pass just outside the 22.
Bristol came even closer to a try, when Junior Fatialofa used his strength to burst through the Wasps defence, before being brought down a few metres short. Almost immediately another Wasps offence at the breakdown gave Barnes the simplest of chances to put the home side ahead, 6-3. Before the restart, Wasps suffered a further blow, when Tom Rees left the field with a shoulder injury, to be replaced by John Hart.
After weathering so much pressure, Bristol were clearly boosted by going ahead and began to come into the game much more, however Wasps reclaimed the lead shortly before halftime, with a Josh Lewsey try, set up by Dom Waldouck’s blistering burst through a gap. When he reached the 22, he found John Hart in support although the defence managed to get back to stop the move, a few metres short of the line, the ball was recycled quickly, and the backs took advantage of the overlap to send Lewsey over in the corner. Cipriani’s conversion attempt was narrowly wide, to make the halftime score 8-6.
There had been an all too familiar look to this half with Wasps making the most of the perfect conditions, to produce some occasionally scintillating rugby, but, until Lewsey’s late score, failing to apply the finishing touch. Bristol had done well to stay in the game and an exciting second half was in prospect.
Within two minutes of the restart, Wasps added a second try when Cipriani went over near the left corner, to finish a move started by a superb run by Mark Van Gisbergen. He took the ball deep inside his own half and jinked his way past a series to players, before linking with Serge Betsen and Pat Barnard. After the ball was recycled before the ball was recycled to send Cipriani over. The fly half landed a fine conversion to put his side nine points ahead.
Try scorer serge Betsen
Barnes missed a long-range penalty, before Joe Simpson brought the crowd to its feet with a magnificent solo effort. After Wasps won a lineout on halfway, the scrumhalf raced through a gap n a weaving run to outstrip the defence and dive over in the corner. Another magnificent Cipriani kick made it 22-6.
Wasps now had 25 minutes to secure their first try bonus of the season and the continued to produce some expansive rugby, with Betsen appearing in almost every move, as well as putting in some characteristic tackling when Bristol threatened. The home side almost scored when they created an overlap, but a possible scoring pass went beyond the grasp of Dan Ward-Smith. From the lineout, Cipriani then spotted a gap and raced the length of the field, before being caught just short of the line.
Within minutes, Wasps were celebrating the long-awaited bonus point. John Hart fed Simpson from a scrum on the 22. The scrum half dummied and raced in for his second try of the game, beneath the posts, which Cipriani duly converted to take the score to 29-6.
With just under ten minutes left another flowing move ended with Betsen crossing for a well-deserved try, which Cipriani again converted.
Both halfbacks then left the field, to be replaced by Jeremy Staunton and James Honeyben, joining Charlie Beech, who’d come on for Barnard. Rob Webber, who’d put in another energetic performance was then replaced by Joe Ward.
Simpson touches down for Wasps
Bristol claimed a consolation try in the 77th minute, when replacement James Phillips gathered a loose ball on the 22, to run in near the posts. Barnes converted to make it 36-18, before Lee Robinson added an injury time five-pointer, which made the final score 36-18 to Wasps.
The game means that Wasps can still push for that seventh place finish, eager to end the season with a big win over Gloucester next Sunday. If the result was to the favour the home side, this would allow them to take their winning home record to a run of ten consecutive victories and collection of those vital points could just see the men in black and gold push for that sought after place in Europe next season.
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