Despite opening the defence of their championship a week late, Wasps looked as if they could do with a further sabbatical. At times they were lethargic, disjointed and they only took flight midway through the second half with a breakaway try when Bristol were within reach of the insect repellent.
Bristol, who lost three key forwards in the close season, are regarded as the soft touch of the Premiership but they scored three tries to four and it could have been closer. For Wasps, an away win is not a bad way to start and they will get better.
The last time the clubs met, on this ground seven months ago, Wasps won 41-18, a victory that took them to the top of the league. There was no honeypot for them in the first half yesterday when Robert Jones, the Bristol captain and former Wales' scrum-half, looked, for a moment, as if he was back at the Arms Park in his halcyon days.
After 17 minutes of innocuous inactivity, Jones sold such a good dummy that Madame Tussaud's would have bought it, let alone the Wasps' back row. He broke through the Wasps defence and when Fraser Waters was obstructed, the referee Steve Lander gave Bristol a penalty try.
Jon Ufton, who had kicked an early penalty, was replaced by Gareth Rees and the Canadian full-back re-established Wasps' lead with a couple of penalties. Jones won a penalty for Bristol when the Irishman David Corkery and the New Zealander Mark Weedon went at each other in a heavyweight bout. The protagonists were shown the yellow card and a penalty awarded to Wasps.
It was the second minute of first-half injury time before Kenny Logan received a pass and although the Scotland wing squeezed in at the corner, he had put a foot in touch. From the line-out Weedon was driven over, a try that enabled Wasps to establish a 16-7 lead at the interval.
Wasps were slightly more impressive in the second half, although when Waters made a half break to create a try for the Tongan David Tiueti, their lead was down to five points and Bristol's tails were up. They threw everything into another concerted attack which all but ended in a try for Eben Rollitt at the posts. Seconds later Bristol were sunk. From the scrum in front of the Wasps' post, Paul Burke's pass was intercepted by Nick Greenstock and the centre ran the length of the pitch unopposed.
In the final quarter both teams introduced fresh legs into their packs and when Chris Sheasby and Andy Gomarsall combined, they gave Logan enough room and space to jink through for a try at the posts. Rees slipped over for another but even so Bristol had the final word. Josh Lewsey, their hugely promising full-back who joined the club from Wasps last year, scored their third try, minutes after being announced as the man of the match.
Bristol: J Lewsey; D Tiueti, F Waters, S Martin, B Breeze; P Burke, R Jones (capt); M Worsley, K Dunn, K Fulman, J Wakeford (J Brownrigg, 68), C Eagle, D Corkery (Short, 68), E Rollitt, R Collins.
Wasps: J Ufton (G Rees, 17); S Roiser, N Greenstock, R Henderson, K Logan; A King, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, S Mitchell, W Green, M Weedon (D Cronin, 64), A Reed, L Dallaglio (capt), J Worsley (C Sheasby, 64), M White.
Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).