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ROUND 20 | PREVIEW | Bristol vs Wasps

By Thomas Branston


Ashton Gate (Kick-off 3pm)

Referee: Greg M Garner

Assistant Refs: Anthony Woodthorpe, Roger Baileff

TMO: Stuart Terheege


Bristol Rugby will feel hard done by after their last-gasp defeat to Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday. The relegation-threatned club have won just once in Aviva Premiership since new year’s day, the 12-11 over Bath at home on 26 February.

Bristol’s three other victories at Ashton Gate this season were against Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, Pau in the European Challenge Cup and Worcester on Boxing Day in the Premiership

Wasps on the other hand sit at the opposite end of the table and have won their last four Premiership matches since their reversal at Sale on 19 February, this is their only defeat in the tournament since mid-November. Wasps have won only once away from home in any tournament since January, a 24-3 victory over Bath at the Rec in Round 17.

Bristol have an extremely steep climb to face if they are to overcome Wasps as the visitors are unbeaten in their last six encounters with Bristol since the west countrymen’s 26-21 victory at Memorial Stadium in the Premiership in September 2006. This will be Wasps’ first visit to Ashton Gate.

Last time out Wasps recorded their biggest win of the season beating Bristol 70-22 at the Ricoh Arena in September. What was Andy Robinson’s Bristol trailed by 37-3 at half-time thanks to tries from Taylor, Wade, Daly, Cooper-Wooley and Symons and the second period didn’t get much better as Wasps ran riot to record a huge victory.


Bristol | 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Jack Tovey, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Alby Mathewson; 1 Ryan Bevington, 2 Marc Jones (c), 3 Gaston Cortes, 4 James Phillips, 5 Mark Sorenson, 6 Sam Jeffries, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells, 8 Mitch Eadie

Replacements | 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Charlie Amesbury

Wasps | 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Joe Simpson; 1 Matt Mullan, 2 Tommy Taylor, 3 Phil Swainston, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 5 Matt Symons, 6 James Haskell, 7 Guy Thompson, 8 Nathan Hughes

Replacements | 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Alapati Leiua

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Aviva Premiership Round Up

By Thomas Branston

Saracens 40-19 Harlequins

Saracens guaranteed themselves a playoff spot after hammering Harlequins in front of 71,324 at Wembley Stadium. Chris Ashton impressed as he scored his fifth try in three games as Saracens kept the pressure on Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at the top of the table.

Defeat for Quins means they remain five points adrift of the play-off spots in sixth, with fourth-placed Leicester and Bath equal on points.

Bath 27-21 Leicester Tigers

Anthony Watson stole the headlines as he scored two late tries as Bath came from behind to beat Leicester at Twickenham.

In front of almost 62,000 fans, in their ‘home game’, Bath trailed 21-13 with just 14 minutes left but Watson had the final say to help secure victory.

Bath remain fifth, but move level on points with fourth-placed Leicester, with three games left, although the Tigers appear to have the easier run-in.

Wasps 32-30 Northampton Saints

Matt Mullan scored a last-minute try to secure a thrilling victory over Northampton at the Ricoh Arena.

Tries by Ben Foden, Alex Waller and George North put the visitors ahead, and Elliot Daly crossed to keep Wasps in touching distance at half-time. Christian Wade and Joe Simpson went over to give the hosts the lead before Ahsee Tuala and Teimana Harrisson crossed for Saints, but Mullan drove over and Gopperth clinched victory.

Wasps are already assured of a place in the play-offs and remain at the summit of the table. Saints are five points off fourth place but have a difficult run-in.

Exeter Chiefs 38-34 Bristol

Thomas Waldrom scored two second half-tries to ensure that Exeter will play a second consecutive year in the Premiership play-offs with a dramatic victory over relegation-threatened Bristol.

Exeter remain in second-place five points behind Wasps whilst Bristol remain eight points behind Worcester at the bottom of the table.

Newcastle Falcons 16 Gloucester Rugby 14

Newcastle Falcons edged past Gloucester on Friday night with a last-gasp Joel Hodgson penalty kick to secure a dramatic victory.

The sides were tied at 7-7 at half-time after England wing Jonny May cancelled out Juan Pablo Socino’s try. Tom Marshall scored for the visitors in-between two Hodgson penalties, but Hodgson then slotted a third penalty with seconds left to win the game for Newcastle.

Gloucester remain six points adrift of the European rugby places behind Northampton and Harlequins whilst Falcons moved to within a point of Gloucester with the win.

Sale Sharks 36 Worcester Warriors 26

Man of the Match Sam James scored two tries as Sale beat Worcester, who managed to pick up a crucial four-try bonus-point in the battle to avoid Premiership relegation.

James’ brace followed by Mike Haley’s effort just before the break put Sale 21-14 up, with Worcester’s tries coming from Francois Hougaard and Joseph Taufete’e. But second-half Bryon McGuigan and Ben Curry tries ensured victory for Sale.

Worcester move to eight points clear of Bristol in the relegation zone whilst Sale Sharks remain 12 points adrift from the European places.

Wasps beat Northampton Saints in Aviva Premiership thriller at Ricoh Arena

By Thomas Branston

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Wasps drive over the whitewash after a quickly taken penalty as the clock goes dead.

Wasps retain hopes of a home semi-final as they scored late on in a thriller to beat Northampton Saints 32-30 in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.

Matt Mullan scored the decisive try at the death after Nathan Hughes’ initial battering run from a quickly-taken penalty.

Tries from Ben Foden, Alex Waller and George North gave Northampton a 18-13 half-time lead with Wasps trailing by five points, the hosts did score with Elliot Daly crossing over and Jimmy Gopperth adding eight points from his boot.

Christian Wade and Joe Simpson added crucial scores which was accompanied by Ahsee Tuala and Teimana Harrison scoring to give Saints a five point lead but Mullan got the decisive try with the clock going dead and Gopperth secured victory from his conversion.

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Nic Groom clings on to tackle fellow South African Willie Le Roux.

Both sides went into the match with hopes on the line, for the hosts it was threats of losing a home playoff semi-final and for Northampton it was a last ditch attempt of securing a top four finish.

Saints began the game playing efficient rugby putting Wasps under mass amounts of pressure and were rewarded with a penalty but Stephen Myler drifted his effort wide.

Northampton continued to build and forced Wasps to make numerous mistakes and had the chance to take the lead again with Myler converting this time.

Wasps struggled to contain Saints in the early exchanges and with the hosts making mistake upon mistake, it was Northampton who capitalised with Foden racing clear from a Gopperth pass which was intercepted and Myler missed his kick from the touchline.

But the hosts responded quickly as Daly, who was being watched by Eddie Jones, found a gap and raced through to score and Gopperth added his conversion to cut the visitors lead.

However, Saints responded perfectly with Waller going over in the corner to reassemble the Saints’ lead and Myler again missed his conversion.

Gopperth managed to keep Wasps in the game as he slotted his kick through the posts with ease to reduce the score to three.

And the hosts continued to grow into the game with Wade’s thunderous pace and initiative helping the hosts win another penalty soon after and Gopperth converted an identical kick to his last one to tie the score.

Jim Mallinder’s men quickly rallied together to shock the hosts with a third score as North received the ball out wide to touch down in the corner and Myler missed his third conversion of the game.

Northampton took a 18-13 lead into the break and could have been further ahead but Wasps managed to keep them within touching distance.

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Dai Young’s team talk proved influential as Wasps looked a different side in the early exchanges of the second period.

Wade scoring in the first three minutes to level the scoring, the wing wizard beautifully kicked a chip over the defensive line and collected to score and Gopperth converted to give Wasps the lead for the first time.

Wasps looked back to their best with Kurtley Beale and Le Roux causing havoc, but it was Simpson who stretched over after some good defensive work from Northampton and Gopperth missed his kick.

Saints responded well and added to the try-fest with Tuala going over from a five-metre scrum to earn Northampton the bonus-point and Myler missed his conversion to level the score.

Impressively Northampton quickly scored another with a turnover from a Wasps scrum in their own half.

Saints broke away down the field offloading at will and Api Ratuniyarawa got his pass off to Harrison who made no mistake in crashing his way through to score untouched and Myler converted.

Much to his blushes of dropping the ball over the line from Wasps’ Champions Cup defeat to Leinster last weekend, Le Roux believed he had scored shortly after Saitns had retaken the lead.

But the TMO had deemed that Joe Launchbury had obstructed Luther Burrell from making his way towards the tackle.

A let off for Saints, but Wasps didn’t take their foot off the pedal, they continued to bombard the Northampton 22.

It took until the 80th minute for Wasps to really assert their authority in the Saints 22, and after winning a second penalty in quick succession Jamie Gibson was shown a yellow.

The clock was dead and with a penalty, Hughes had to tap it and go and the number 8 crashed his way up to a metre of crossing the line.

The ball was recycled by the forwards quickly with Mullan crashing over to score with Referee Maxwell-Keys declaring the try much to a crackling roar of the Ricoh crowd.

Gopperth stepped up just 12 metres out to convert the winning points as Wasps secured the win in emphatic fashion.