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Wasps struggle to fire as Bristol stroll to Premiership victory

By PA
(Photo / PA)

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Jack Willis lasted an hour in his first Wasps start for more than a year after recovering from a serious knee injury, but their woes on the road continued as Bristol banked a badly needed five points with a 31-19 win in the Gallagher Premiership.

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Wasps had only lost once to Bristol in 15 Premiership matches but they were 21 points down before they stirred themselves.

As in the previous round at Harlequins, they left themselves with too much to do and missed the chance to close the gap on the top four.

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The visitors were close to full strength at forward with the Willis brothers in harness in the back row – Jack was making his first start since January last year – and Joe Launchbury back from England duty, but they made errors in defence.

Bristol’s play-off bid had been all but ended by a run of six defeats in eight matches but they were smarting after the previous week’s defeat at Worcester.

There was little between the teams at the start with robust tackling forcing both to play behind the gainline, but Henry Purdy’s 50-22 after 13 minutes gave the Bears the launchpad for the game’s opening try.

Chris Vui secured the line-out 15 metres from the line and although Wasps repelled the initial drive, Harry Thacker engineered the second wave and the hooker was propelled over the line as the defence splintered.

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Bristol were without 14 players. Five of them were scrum-halves, including two who were recruited last week, Toby Venner and Max Green, and they had no specialist cover on the bench.

They needed Theo Strang to remain standing and his pass created the Bears’ second try, if inadvertently. The ball bounced in front of Tiff Eden in the Wasps’ 22 and as the defence relaxed, the outside-half stepped between two defenders, outpaced the cover and found Antoine Frisch outside him.

Niyi Adeolokun scored Bristol’s third try, set up by Frisch, and it was not until the 39th minute that Wasps mustered a response. Gabriel Oghre scored from a driving line-out, although Bristol restarted with a penalty because of a fracas started by prop Biyi Alo.

Bristol secured the bonus point three minutes after the restart when Alapati Leiua finished off a handling move.

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Wasps responded with their best moments in the game but Alfie Barbeary and Jacob Umaga squandered overlaps and Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen ruined a promising attack by taking out Thacker off the ball.

They eventually scored after 56 minutes. The try was gift-wrapped by Theo Strang who, trying to extend a ruck on his line following a turnover to give him room to box-kick, allowed the ball to come out and it was pounced on by Will Porter.

Porter got the crowd twitching when he set up Marcus Watson with six minutes to go, but an Eden penalty meant the visitors left Ashton Gate with nothing.

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