Wonder of Worsley has Wasps on the rise

Londoners finally overcome poor start to season while Pienaar's charges are outpaced by improving Exiles
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The Independent Online

The season finally began for Wasps. It was just a shame it took them a whole half to get going. They avoided the ignominy of a third home defeat on the trot and emerged from a bruising but uninspiring encounter with an armful of positives - most notably leaving the foot of the Zurich Premiership.

The season finally began for Wasps. It was just a shame it took them a whole half to get going. They avoided the ignominy of a third home defeat on the trot and emerged from a bruising but uninspiring encounter with an armful of positives - most notably leaving the foot of the Zurich Premiership.

For Bristol there was the consolation of picking up a bonus point for finishing within seven of their opponents which keeps them just ahead of Wasps on points difference.

Once more Wasps' Joe Worsley showed himself to be a player of the highest calibre. He may wear the No 8 shirt but that did not stop him from popping up pretty well everywhere that he was needed.

Worsley and the full-back Josh Lewsey have been the jewels in Wasps' tarnished crown thus far. The impending return of Lawrence Dallaglio, either on Wednesday or next Saturday, will be more than welcome. He would not have enjoyed the first half, in particular. When rugby is good, it can be very, very good, but when it is bad it is torrid and that was the case in the first half yesterday.

It was just as well that the crowd was a paltry one of 3,525. Perhaps the early start to the season is not to the taste of rugby followers, it could be that they are late risers, certainly diminuendo is the order of Sunday matches at Loftus Road, the opening-day fixture attracting barely 6,000 and last week's a shade over 4,000.

Whatever, the stay-aways missed very little for the first 40 minutes. The stadium's electronic scoreboard was not functioning, and neither were Wasps. There was too much macho posturing up front and not enough muscle.

But overall there were improvements in the Wasps approach compared with the previous two home matches. For a start they were more competitive at the line-out, as much to do with Greening's new-found accuracy with his throwing as anything.

They also showed a willingness to run the ball, unfortunately more often than not up a blind alley. The Bristol defenders were no mugs and the Wasps scrum-half Martyn Wood's insistence on the complex cost them dear early on.

And even when the home side seemed to have got it right, the final pass would go to ground or the ball carrier would opt to run into, rather than around the defence.

Bristol, in contrast, were far more direct and there was no more menacing sight than that of Bristol's Argentine scrum-half Agustin Pichot racing upfield, long black hair streaming behind him, through the virtual reality of Wasps defence.

By then Bristol had already scored a try, the full-back Lee Best cutting inside after hard work had brought the visitors within sniffing distance of the line. And if they were not committing handling errors Wasps were giving away penalties. They went behind after quarter of an hour when they were caught offside.

Kenny Logan, who had missed an earlier chance to kick Wasps ahead, finally opened their account in the 35th minute, shortly after Bristol lost Best with a knee injury.

Wasps clearly sorted themselves out in the interval because suddenly Wood was prepared to swing the ball down the line, Lewsey displayed great skill in whipping the ball out to Logan and the Scotland wing did what he does best, which is to race 45 metres and score under the posts. His conversion levelled the scores.

That stung Wasps into further deeds of derring-do. They launched a series of attacks which took them almost over the Bristol line, only a nifty clearance by a hard-pressed Pichot keeping them at bay.

The resultant line-out helped Wasps drive back to the line and hooker Phil Greening was finally able to thrust his powerful frame over. A searing break by Logan almost brought another try, but when he was pulled up Bristol conceded a penalty.

Logan knocked over his third penalty to bring his tally to 18 points just after Jim Brownrigg went lunging through a static defence for Bristol's second try.

Wasps: Tries Logan, Greening; Conversions Logan 2; Penalties Logan 3.

Bristol: Tries Best, Brownrigg; Conversions Bowen 2; Penalty Bowen.

Wasps: J Lewsey; S Roiser, F Waters, M Denney, K Logan; M Leek, M Wood; D Molloy, P Greening, W Green (capt), A Reed (J Beardshaw, 78), S Shaw, R Birkett, J Worsley, P Volley.

Bristol: L Best (S Vile, 31); D Rees, E Simone, L Davies (J Mayer, 72), D Dewdney; G Bowen, A Pichot (capt); P Johnstone, B Williams, D Crompton (K Fullman, 56), A Sheridan, A Brown (J Brownrigg, 70), S Fenn (B Sturnham, 43-54 and 76), D Ryan, A Vander.

Referee: N Yates (Manchester).

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