Bravura Contepomi

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The Independent Online

In a match crammed with argy-bargy it was Bristol who had the Argy and, ultimately, the edge. The Argentine fly-half Felipe Contepomi crowned a superb solo performance by scoring all Bristol's points, including the dramatic 77th minute interception try which in effect sealed victory.

In a match crammed with argy-bargy it was Bristol who had the Argy and, ultimately, the edge. The Argentine fly-half Felipe Contepomi crowned a superb solo performance by scoring all Bristol's points, including the dramatic 77th minute interception try which in effect sealed victory.

Not content with that, Contepomi then landed a drop goal to go with the conversion of his try and four penalties. Desperately as Wasps countered, their dream of a third Cup final success on the trot was not to be. Although Bristol gave away a string of penalties at the end, and even had Gareth Baber - an injury-time replacement for Contepomi - consigned to the sin bin, they still held out. When the final whistle sounded they had just cleared their lines after some intense pressure.

It was a pulsating climax to the match. Wasps had got dangerously close through the ever-sharp Rob Henderson minutes earlier, only a brilliant last-ditch tackle by Spencer Brown kept him out. For Bristol and their fans the tie crawled agonisingly into injury time, oozing tension and dripping drama.

It is all very well for people to say that the cup does not matter, but neither side played it that way. This was all or nothing from the outset.

Wasps were looking for a hat-trick of Tetley's Bitter victories to join the Bath and Leicester in the annals of the knockout competition's history. Their cup record going into this match was certainly impressive: one defeat (and that in the 1998 final to Saracens) in their previous 15 ties. But Wasps have had an unhappy European campaign, losing three of their first four games.

Bristol however have been resurgent. Jack Rowell is now putting in three days a week at the club and his is the kind of presence guaranteed to galvanise everyone within range.

Bristol go into the European Shield's winter break on top of Group Seven, although domestically Wasps are riding high in the Zurich Premiership, while Bristol are labouring, one place off the bottom.

But they did not begin like a listing ship, even if they finished the game desperately close to the rocks. A powerboat was more like it. There were ferocious exchangesup front and shuddering hits whenever either set of backs took the ball wide.

Wasps recovered swiftly from Contepomi's opening penalty, when Henderson benefited from a switch left and brushed aside Paul Johnstone's half-hearted tackle to score his eighth try of the season. Logan was off target with the conversion although he quickly restored Wasps lead after Contepomi's second successful goal had eased Bristol in front. Contepomi's third penalty took Bristol into the interval in the lead again.

There was a great deal more enterprise and threat from the home side. Contepomi was playing alongside his Argentine partner Agustin Pichot and their clever little links frequently freed up the Bristol threequarters.

Wasps looked dangerous on the break, but too often promising moves broke down because of silly mistakes. And early on at least their line-out was not that good, on a couple of occasions they lost possession on their own throw. Kenny Logan kept Wasps in touch with his boot, but Bristol and more crucially Contepomi, just would not lie down.

Bristol: L Best; D Rees, E Simone, L Davies, S Brown; F Contepomi (G Baber, 85), A Pichot (capt); P Johnstone, N McCarthy, K Fullman (D Crompton, 41), G Archer (A Sheridan, 55), A Brown, C Short (M Salter, 23), B Sturnham, A Vander.

Wasps: J Lewsey (P Sampson, 84); S Roiser, M Denney, R Henderson, K Logan; A King, M Wood; A Le Chevalier, T Leota, W Green, J Beardshaw, A Reed, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham)

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