Bristol on the brink
Bristol slipped a step closer to relegation from the Guinness Premiership after losing 21-19 at Wasps.
By Ben Collins
Last Updated: 22/03/09 5:43pm
Brave Bristol slipped a step closer to relegation from the Guinness Premiership after going down to a narrow 21-19 defeat at Wasps.
The hosts still harbour ambitions of qualifying for the Heineken Cup but a haphazard display from a Wasps side again shorn of several internationals did little to suggest that the defending champions will make it.
Wasps' last defeat at Adams Park was in November while Bristol have not won away in the Premiership all season.
But the visitors, who will be relegated if they lose at home to Worcester next week, showed they would not go down without a fight.
Wasps started with real purpose, camped on the Bristol line for five of the first eight minutes, but eventually had to settle for a Danny Cipriani penalty to open the scoring after valiant Bristol defence.
Bristol, coming into the match off eight straight defeats, steadied themselves and made some inroads into Wasps territory before a piece of David Lemi magic produced the first try in the 22nd minute.
The diminutive Samoan speedster combined with former England scrum-half Shaun Perry to outflank Wasps on the blindside and scoot unchallenged to the line from 25 metres out.
Ed Barnes missed the conversion and shortly afterwards Cipriani restored Wasps' lead with his second penalty.
The rock-bottom west country side were undeterred, as Wasps struggled to impose themselves.
Lemi again caused confusion around the Wasps 22 and, following swift recycling, powerful wing Lee Robinson strode into the corner, Barnes converting to give Bristol a 12-6 lead with half an hour gone.
There was a lack of accuracy and co-ordination in most things that Wasps attempted, typified by a horrendously-scuffed penalty attempt by Cipriani.
However, a darting Mark van Gisbergen break ended with veteran Bristol lock Roy Winters killing the ball on the floor and being sent to the sin-bin, and Cipriani made up for his previous blooper to reduce Wasps' arrears to three points at the break.
Cipriani failed to appear for the second half due to a recurrence of his ankle problems and was replaced by Dave Walder, whose drop goal won this fixture for Wasps last season.
The former Newcastle man was denied a certain try after a Van Gisbergen fumble messed up a clear overlap and Bristol had survived intact at the end of the sin-bin.
With head coach Shaun Edwards a brooding presence on the touchline, Wasps eventually broke through the dogged Bristol defence just before the hour mark.
Dominic Waldouck's initial thrust and superb continuity by debutant prop Bob Baker created the room for Lachlan Mitchell to score in the corner.
Walder's excellent conversion made it 16-12 but Wasps failed to push on as the match meandered towards the closing 10 minutes.
Waldouck and Josh Lewsey almost conjured a second Wasps try but again the finish was lacking, while George Skivington and Eoin Reddan both knocked on with the line gaping.
Youngster Charlie Beech's try appeared to seal it, but back Bristol came through a second Robinson try and Barnes conversion to set up a nervy finish for the home crowd.