Having had an extra week to wait before playing their first Gallagher Premiership match of the season, Wasps subjected Bristol Bears to their second loss of the season with a 44-8 win at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
Watching on from afar last weekend, Wasps got their season off to the best possible start. Whilst Callum Sheedy nudged Bristol ahead in the early exchanges, from that point onwards it was almost entirely the hosts game to lose.
Ali Crossdale scored the games’ first try after the hosts kept the ball alive and Bristol failed to organise their defence efficiently. Umaga then slotted a penalty to take the lead, only for the scores to be made level as a result of a Max Lahiff try, with Brad Shields in the bin for bringing a maul down.
A second Umaga penalty and another score for Ali Crossdale meant that Lee Blackett’s side were very much in control going into the second period and would only improve as the game went on.
Bristol would be scoreless in the second half, Wasps scoring tries through Brad Shields, Dan Frost, Tom Willis and Zach Kibirige, as well as the metronomic boot of Jimmy Gopperth doing the rest.
There was a slight grey cloud in Coventry, with skipper Brad Shields red carded for a second cynical offence, Karl Dickson left with little option but to send the former England international to the touchline.
View this post on Instagram
Blackett will no doubt be thrilled with his team. With an all-new second-row partnership combining for the first time, as well as the introduction of Crossdale at full-back there would have understandably been concerns as to how the group gelled early on.
Add to this the new coaching group, with John Mitchell and Ed Robinson recently introduced and clearly having a significant impact. Matt Everard’s fingerprints could be seen at the breakdown and a ferocious defence setting the tone for a fine start to the season.
“I would say defensively,” Blackett said when asked what pleased him most about his team’s performance. “The way we held them out at times was outstanding. I am really pleased with Matt Everard. We worked so hard on it in the offseason.
“Very close (to perfect game plan). I think whenever you come up against Bristol you know how dangerous they are. You know defence has to be at their best. I thought our half backs managed the game. I think there are some great D sets to take away as some positives from this game.”
Questions will be asked by Pat Lam to his playing staff, who for a second week in a row were flat from start to finish. There were flashes from Bears at times, but on the whole it was a second disheartening display in a row and attentions will now turn to a West Country derby against Bath next Friday night at Ashton Gate.
As of right now, Lam seems content, with how his team are performing, the former Samoa international confident that in the near future his team will be on the winning side.
“Human beings play rugby, game plan makes opportunities, but players make mistakes and grow, and that is the beauty of this team,” Lam said.
“It would be a challenge if this was our first year, this is our fifth year, we know we can bring it back to a game of rugby and we can win games of rugby, the boys are tight, and we have built this to win these moments. Every dog gets his day, and we haven’t had our day – our day will come. Everyone can say what they want, we know what we are trying to do.”
Wasps: Crossdale; Watson, Fekitoa, Le Bourgeois, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; Hislop, Cruse, Toomaga-Allen, Fifita, Stooke, Shields (capt), Oghre, T Willis.
Replacements: Frost, Harris, Alo, Cardall, Morris, Porter, Gopperth, Kibirige.
Bristol Bears: C Piutau; Adeolokun, O'Conor, Leiua, Lloyd; Sheedy, Uren; Y Thomas, Thacker, Lahiff, Attwood, Vui, Luatua (capt), D Thomas, Hughes.
Replacements: Capon, Woolmore, Armstrong, Holmes, Heenan, Randall, Bedlow, Purdy.