Hopley kindleswill of Wasps

Wasps 33 Bristol 5 Courage League: Bristol are brushed aside afte r a promising start while West Hartlepool's spirit goes unrewarded
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The Independent Online
WASPS signed on yesterday where they had finished their league campaign last season. Running everything, passing delightfully, and flattening the opposition. High scores are a feature of life at Sudbury and, if Rob Andrew had been half the kicker he was at the World Cup, the deficit would have been considerably larger.

Andrew missed two penalties and four conversions yesterday, none of them from particularly hard parts of the park. His last - and simple - attempt at the goalposts was so poor that he slipped over mid-kick and soaked up the embarrassment by remaining flat on the ground and staring towards the heavens. With Wasps enjoying a 28-point lead at the time, even Andrew could see the funny side.

Bristol will not have found the outcome so amusing, least of all Mark Regan, who had been flown in by helicopter from Bristol after attending his brother's wedding. Kick-off at the altar had been 1pm; kick-off in London was two hours later and Regan's chopper dropped him off with 20 minutes to spare. After eight minutes of the game, he had scored a try. Six minutes later he was off with a broken nose. Not a bad little cameo - let's hope his brother appreciated it.

For all the talk of Wasps' will to run the ball, there was little initial evidence of the style that illuminated the league last season. Indeed, while Andrew denied his three quarters barely a touch of the ball in the first quarter, it was Bristol who started to take them on - and better them - at their own game.

Andrew put Wasps ahead with a penalty in the third minute but Bristol's sense of adventure was quickly rewarded. Kyran Bracken, who had been directing the flow, made a piercing run through the middle in a move that twice involved the flanker, Ian Patten, and finished up with a line-out on the Wasps' try line. Regan arrived for his fleeting moment of glory as he ran on to the line-out tap and was over for the try. Six minutes later came his clout on the snout and he was off, a fleeting appearance which put Bristol ahead until the half hour.

They could not possibly have predicted that after Regan's try, they would not score another point. Until Wasps' first try, Bristol's cohesion gave them the upper hand, but once Wasps had scored the visitors were barely in contention.

It was, then, after 30 minutes, that there was a glimpse of the continuity that Wasps had been seeking in vain and the old habits fell into place. From Wasps' own 22, the ball was propelled high by Andy Gomarsall and collected by Matt Greenwood. The attacking momentum carried them all the way to the try line, forwards and backs first tugging Bristol left, then thrusting up the middle before immediately sweeping up the right with Lawrence Dallaglio giving Damian Hopley the pass with which he touched down.

Bristol's defiance weakened in the second half when Bracken went off after being flattened in a tackle by Nick Popplewell. Before Bracken went off, wing Shane Roiser had finished a delightful move for Wasps with a try in the corner. Ten minutes after Bracken's departure, Roiser scored another thanks to a handling howler by the Bristol backs.

Wasps were now fulfilling the expectation, and they saved two more tries for the last 10 minutes. Both were set-pieces, captain Dean Ryan bludgeoning through for the first and Damian Hopley exchanging passes with Dallaglio, who had a remarkably good game, to run in the second.

This was Wasps' biggest ever league victory over Bristol and certainly showed potential for the rest of the season. There were glimpses of possibilities from Bristol but Regan, who was helicoptered back off to the wedding reception after the final whistle, would be the only one of his team celebrating last night.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, A James, S Roiser; R Andrew, A Gomarsall; N Popplewell, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, D Ryan (capt), L Dallaglio, M White, P Scrivener.

Bristol: P Hull (capt); K Maggs, S Martin, M Denney, G Sharp; M Painton, K Bracken; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, S Shaw, G Archer, B Armstrong, I Patten, E Rollitt.

Referee: J Pearson (Durham).

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