Wasps hold off late-charging Bears
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Wasps held off a valiant second-half fightback from Bristol Bears to claim a 29-22 bonus-point victory at Ashton Gate on their return to Premiership action.
Dai Young’s side had lost their last three league games on the road, but tries from Thomas Young, Tom Cruse, Nizaam Carr and Will Rowlands secured all the points for the visitors.
Bristol showed plenty of fight as Harry Randall, Piers O’Connor and Charles Piutau all scored in the second half but it was only enough for a losing bonus point.
While the visitors started brightly, it was the Bears who opened the scoring after eight minutes when Ian Madigan slotted a penalty after an infringement from Wasps.
It was not long before Wasps were on the scoreboard, though, with Young scoring the opening try for the game fresh from making his Six Nations debut for Wales in Rome.
His score came after Wasps kicked to the corner and executed the line-out successfully before switching the attack to Young to cross the whitewash.
Former Bristol academy player Billy Searle added to the damage from the tee, before the hosts spurned a golden chance to respond when Siale Piutau’s pass went forward.
But Wasps continued to dominate up front and after another catch and drive attempt, Willie Le Roux found Cruse out wide with a clever miss-pass as he dotted down in the corner.
The hosts suffered a further blow on the cusp of half-time when Searle intercepted the ball on halfway before offloading to Carr, who beat his man to crash over the line.
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Searle landed the conversion to give Wasps a commanding 19-3 lead at the break, but Bristol hit back soon after the restart through Randall after great work from Harry Thacker.
But another Bristol error allowed Wasps to cancel out their effort almost immediately as Rowlands picked the ball up on halfway and ran in for the bonus-point try.
Bristol was not done yet, however, and closed the gap again after Steven Luatua and Chris Vui combined to set up O’Connor for the hosts’ second try, converted by Callum Sheedy.
Wasps were beginning to show signs of frailty and Bristol scored their third try just before the hour after Piutau beat the challenge of Le Roux to score.
Lima Sopoaga eased the visitors’ nerves with a 35-metre penalty to extend their lead to 29-22 and they saw out the remaining minutes to secure back-to-back league wins.
For the Bristol Bears:
Tries: Randall, O’Connor, Piutau
Cons: Madigan, Sheedy
Tries: Young, Cruse, Carr, Rowlands
Cons: Searle 2, Sopoaga
Bristol: 15 Luke Daniels, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Piers O’Connor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Jordan Crane , 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua, 5 Chris Vui, 4 John Hawkins, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Nick Fenton-Wells, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Nick Haining, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Charles Piutau
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Michele Campagnaro, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Simon McIntyre, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Rob Miller
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla and Karl Dickson
TMO: Sean Davey
A brave effort from @BristolBears 🐻 at Ashton Gate 👏
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 15, 2019