Premiership: Wasps 23-20 Bristol Bears – Tom Willis provides late sting in the tail

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Tom Willis
Tom Willis’ late score gave Wasps an 11th straight league win over Bristol
Wasps (6) 23
Tries: J Willis, T Willis Con: Gopperth 2 Pens: Gopperth 3
Bristol Bears (3) 20
Tries: Randall, Piutau Con: Bedlow 2 Pens: Bedlow 2

Tom Willis’ late try helped Wasps start their Premiership campaign with a narrow win over Bristol.

A trio of Jimmy Gopperth penalties edged Wasps ahead after Sam Bedlow had kicked the Bears ahead.

Harry Randall burrowed over for Bristol before Jack Willis’ try – given after review – put Wasps back in front.

Bears skipper Siale Piutau crossed to restore the lead in a dramatic final quarter, but Willis touched down with two minutes left to nick the win.

In a repeat of last season’s Premiership play-off semi-final, Wasps made it 11 straight Premiership wins against Bristol, and 15 league matches unbeaten against the west country side – a record which stretches back to September 2006.

Bedlow, in his first start at fly-half, earned the Bears a deserved lead after a dominant opening 15 minutes, but after individual errors cost them at two attacking lineouts, Gopperth levelled with Wasps’ first possession in Bristol territory.

A forward pass denied Bassett a nailed-on try as the hosts came on strong in an even first half, and despite a disciplined defensive effort, Bristol fell behind when a wayward Randall pass eventually led to a penalty in front of the posts, with Gopperth taking advantage.

Niyi Adeolokun’s fine cover tackle denied Zach Kibirige a clear run to the line as the hosts started the second half strongly, and Gopperth’s boot duly extended Wasps’ lead to 9-3 after Bristol conceded a penalty from their own scrum put-in.

Juan de Jongh was shown a yellow card for offside and Bristol took advantage when Randall’s quick tap and spin carried him over the line with the visitors camped on the Wasps line. Bedlow’s conversion nudged Bristol ahead.

Bedlow’s long-range penalty stretched the lead, but Jack Willis emerged from a mass of bodies to claim a try which a lengthy TMO review confirmed, and Gopperth’s conversion gave Wasps a 16-13 lead to spark a topsy-turvy final 10 minutes.

Piutau crashed over from close-range as Bristol looked destined to end their barren run against their bogey side, but the hosts landed the knockout blow as Josh Bassett broke down the wing and gave Tom Willis a run in under the posts with two minutes left.

Wasps: Sopoaga; Kibirige, De Jongh, Gopperth, Bassett; Umaga, Vellacott; McIntyre, Taylor, Brookes, Cardall, Gaskell, Willis, Young (c), Shields

Replacements: Cruse, West, Toomaga-Allen, Douglas, Barbeary, Willis, Wolstenholme, Odogwu

Sin-bin: De Jongh (48)

Bristol Bears: O’Conor; Adeolokun, Leiua, S Piutau (c), Purdy; Bedlow, Randall; Thomas, Byrne, Afoa, Holmes, Joyce, Vui, Thomas, Heenan.

Replacements: Capon, Woolmore, Armstrong, Hawkins, Dun, Kessell, Wilstead, Fricker.

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