Smith puts the accent on style

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The Independent Online
DAVID LLEWELLYN

Wasps 33 Bristol 5

Rob Smith has a plan that could help rugby's establishment sort out the payment of players. The Wasps coach has worked out a three-year schedule and arrived at a cost of pounds 18.15m to set it up and pay players in a rearranged League of three divisions over that period. Whether the Rugby Football Union pay Smith's idea any attention is anyone's guess.

One thing is for sure though - everyone is going to sit up and take notice of what Smith has been achieving with Wasps. In two years their adventurous, expansive approach to the game has been twiddled and fiddled with and fine-tuned. This year the learning curve looks to have flattened out.

This is the time of year when Wasps are traditionally dozy - and at their most dangerous. Dean Ryan and his men did little initially to disabuse anyone of that notion in the early autumn sunshine, until they suddenly spread their wing threequarters and entertained. Phil Hopley drew the cover then sent his brother Damian in for the opening try after 31 minutes and they were off and humming.

Not even the absence of Steve Bates at scrum-half seemed to affect them. The much-vaunted Andy Gomarsall, while admitting later that he was nervous for the opening 10 minutes, performed admirably in opposition to Kyran Bracken for the 55 minutes of the match that the England scrum-half was on the pitch.

The injury-prone Bracken then became the victim of a late tackle which left him unable to continue. By then Bristol had also lost hooker Mark Regan - suspected broken nose - the scorer of their solitary try. He had flown in by helicopter from his brother's wedding before the start but lasted only 14 minutes and probably would have been better off staying for the best man's speech.

Even if he had survived it would have made little difference. Damian Hopley and Shane Roiser left Bristol anything but shipshape after the well-drilled Wasps forwards bored gap after gap for this striking pair to exploit in a one-sided second half.

Roiser's first try came courtesy of a brilliant break by Damian Hopley, his second was the result of his interception in the Wasps 22 when an intended missed pass missed everyone except the fastest man on the pitch.

Afterwards Smith admitted his delight with such a start, while Ryan spoke of his team's changing attitude. "This was another step forward," said Ryan. "That was a tough performance out there, we need mental hardness this year, but we are still going to play attractive rugby."

Wasps: Tries D Hopley 2, Roiser 2, Ryan; Conversion Andrew; Penalties Andrew 2. Bristol: Try Regan.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley (S Bates, 78), D Hopley, A James, S Roiser; R Andrew, A Gomarsall; N Popplewell, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood (R Kinsey, 37-39), D Ryan (capt), L Dallaglion, M White (R Kinsey, 73), P Scrivener.

Bristol: P Hull (capt); K Maggs, S Martin, M Denney, G Sharp; M Tainton, K Bracken (B Harvey, 55); A Sharp, M Regan (A Lathrope, 14), D Hinkins, S Shaw, G Archer, R Armstrong, I Patten, E Rollitt.

Referee: J Pearson (Cleveland).

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