Premiership: Nine-try Wasps enjoy 59-35 win over weakened Bristol Bears


Wasps flanker Jack Willis now has eight Premiership tries this season - four of them since emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
Wasps flanker Jack Willis now has eight Premiership tries this season – four of them since emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
Wasps (31) 59
Tries: J Willis, Bassett, Cruse, Rowlands, Kibirige, Robson, Pen, T Willis, Oghre Cons: Gopperth 6
Bristol (14) 35
Tries: Malins 2, O’Connor, Pen, McCabe Cons: Malins 4

Wasps scored nine tries to make it 17 at the Ricoh Arena in the space of five days as they beat weakened Bristol Bears to go second in the Premiership.

The hosts had a bonus point inside 18 minutes through Jack Willis, Josh Bassett, Tom Cruse and Will Rowlands.

Zach Kibirige also crossed before the break before Dan Robson, Tom Willis and Gabriel Oghre went over in the second half, supplemented by a penalty try.

Max Malins (two), Piers O’Connor and Peter McCabe all crossed for the Bears.

But their bonus point came from a late penalty try prior to McCabe’s final score in time added on, as the visitors added a little late gloss to their scoreline, stand-off Malins adding the last of his four conversions for an 18-point personal haul.

Wasps’ ninth win in 10 games – and sixth in seven since lockdown – lifts them above Bristol, who drop to fifth, and also Sale – who later lost at home to Bath – into second, with two games left. The four contenders to join Exeter in the play-offs are now separated by just two points.

Home boss Lee Blackett made seven changes, leaving out 19-year-old Alfie Barbeary after his midweek hat-trick in Wednesday’s 54-7 win over Leicester.

But after claiming the second-quickest try bonus point in Premiership history, they never looked back.

Jimmy Gopperth kicked six of his eight conversion attempts, although they did have to see the game out without England lock Joe Launchbury, who went off as a precaution with a calf muscle niggle.

Bristol, with one eye on next Friday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final at home to Dragons, their fourth match in 15 days, made 13 changes from Tuesday’s 47-10 victory at home to Northampton, including nine academy graduates.

Pat Lam’s side must now rely on their final two games – away at Leicester and at home to London Irish – to try to secure a top-four place which has looked theirs for most of the season.

Wasps’ final two games look less straightforward, away at Harlequins and then at home to runaway leaders Exeter.

Wasps head coach Lee Blackett told BBC Radio 5Live:

“I’ve said all along we’re not going to waste energy thinking about others and looking at the table. Let’s just focus on ourselves. We’re in a position that, if we win the next two games, that’s enough. Let’s not lose sight that Harlequins and the next game are our focus.

“We’ve looked at our starts as probably being one of the weaknesses in our game since we returned. It was the first time we’ve actually gone ahead. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Wasps skipper Joe Launchbury told BBC Radio 5Live:

“We felt we were in a pretty good spot before lockdown – we had three wins in a row – and lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“We were itching to get going again, but we’ve hit the ground running. I have no idea what day of the week it is, but it’s been exciting. We are itching to get away now and reset before two massive games.”

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam told BBC Radio 5Live:

“We have to take it into the context of Covid. We can either not play, or we can do this. I would rather do this than have no rugby at all. We wouldn’t change it. I would rather be in a European quarter-final than not. Three years ago we were in the Championship.

“We pushed with Europe (changing the Challenge Cup quarter-final date), but they wouldn’t budge on that. We told them that we had three games and we were going to end up with four, but they put us on the Friday night.

“We asked for the Saturday or the Sunday, but it was a no. No problem, we will just have to deal with it now. That is our stack of cards. It wasn’t about complaining about it, it was just unfortunate.”

Wasps: Minozzi; Kibirige, Fekitoa, Gopperth, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; Harris, Cruse, Brookes, Launchbury (capt), Rowlands, Shields, T Willis, J Willis.

Replacements: Oghre, West, Toomaga-Allen, Gaskell, Young, Vellacott, Mills, Watson.

Sin-bin: Gaskell (74)

Bristol: Lloyd; Adeolokun, O’Conor, Leiua, Bates; Malins, Cook; Thomas, Capon, Assiratti, Holmes, Hawkins, Dun, Thomas, Heenan (capt).

Replacements: Byrne, McCabe, Afoa, Joyce, Eadie, Kessell, Ascherl, Powell.

BBC News