Honours even in Bristol
A hard-fought Guinness Premiership contest between Bristol and Wasps resulted in a 23-23 draw at the Memorial Ground.
Last Updated: 22/12/07 6:01pm
Wasps' good form in the Guinness Premiership continued on their visit to the Memorial Ground, but hosts Bristol might feel hard done by following the two sides' hard-fought 23-23 draw.
The home side shaded the game in most respects: Bristol dominating the set pieces and - particularly in the first half - more than matching their opponents' own reputation for pacy, attacking rugby.
Bristol also had the edge in terms of tries scored, with Christmas in the Arscott household bound to be merry after brothers Tom and Luke touched down three times.
Nevertheless, they needed an injury-time penalty from replacement fly-half Ed Barnes to earn the draw, Wasps' points coming through tries from Eoin Reddan, a second-half penalty try and the boot of the in-form Danny Cipriani.
The Heineken Cup holders thus preserved a record which has seen them unbeaten in domestic competition since October 20th and, looking to match their form with a league position higher than the ninth they occupied at the outset, Wasps went ahead with a Cipriani penalty after two minutes.
Thanks to a turnover, Bristol soon managed to get out their own half and their momentum looked set to increase when Wasps second row Simon Shaw was yellow-carded for an illegal tackle of Brian O'Riordan.
They were unable to capitalise, however, when Jason Strange missed the subsequent penalty and, despite being a man down, Wasps seized the initiative in fine style on 10 minutes.
With the ball being fed to the openside, fast hands on the right wing released Riki Flutey, who galloped forward before in turn passing to the supporting Reddan to touch down, with Cipriani converting.
But Bristol needed only three minutes to fashion a reply - full-back Luke Arscott spotting brother Tom on an angled run in from the right wing, the latter then leaving the Wasps defence grasping in his wake before diving over in flamboyant fashion.
Strange converted and the home side then showed that they are more than a durable defence - a period of quick passing play entertaining the crowd and yet earning no reward.
But the faithful were well-and-truly on their feet just past the midway point of the opening half when Arscott scored his second. The score had much to do with Andrew Blowers, who turned over inside Bristol's 22 before Strange played the ball out of trouble.
Tom Arscott then kicked and chased - in vain it seemed. But the try had even more to do with the ponderousness of Wasps full-back Mark van Gisbergen, whose eventual fumble was gleefully pounced upon by the opposing right wing.
Strange could not convert but Bristol were now 12-10 ahead. The lead lasted only five minutes, however, as another Cipriani penalty edged Wasps one point clear.
But the crowd piped up again four minutes before the interval when Strange's penalty found its target.
The end of the opening period saw tempers getting a little strained and that trend continued at the start of the second when a late tackle by Rob Webber on Strange resulted in the arrival of Barnes.
Josh Lewsey and Tom Arscott then engaged in a stand-off after the latter appeared to plough into the England star, with Wasps second-rower Richard Birkett then sin-binned after he caught Bristol captain Matt Salter with a blatant backhander.
All this came amid a period of Bristol pressure and their patience was rewarded on 49 minutes when Luke Arscott spotted a gap and threaded his way through and over. The home side were now seven points ahead but Barnes - emphatically - could not convert.
Cipriani showed him how to do it with a well-taken penalty two minutes later and, with the final quarter approaching, Wasps gave indications - in the lineout, chasing 50-50 balls - that they could close the four-point gap.
Their cause was certainly helped by the arrivals of Tom Voyce, Tom Palmer and James Haskell and, with the home side's defence tested resolutely - Bristol giving away two penalties in successive phases - Reddan's scramble for the line fell inches short.
Wasps' persistence finally paid off when another collapsed scrum saw a penalty try awarded after 65 minutes; with boos ringing in his ears, Cipriani then kicked the extras to place the visitors three points ahead.
The lead lasted until the 83rd minute before Barnes atoned for his earlier, glaring, miss - the youngster kicking a far more difficult penalty to level proceedings.