Newbie Ali Crossdale scores two tries in Wasps’ eye-catching win over Bristol | Prime Minister
It was a late entry into fashion in this season’s Premiership by Wasps, but a performance that suggests they have substance to support their style. They scored six tries – two from debutant Ali Crossdale – and, with a vintage performance at scrum half from Dan Robson, produced the kind of spectacle that marked their run to the final in the penultimate season. It made you wonder what Lee Blackett’s team might be capable of when their injury issues are gone.
Bristol would have had a great chance of being at the bottom of the Premiership after two games with just one try to show his efforts and while two late tries for the Wasps put a luster on the result they were outright winners . Brad Shields, who was sent off late for a second yellow card, Dan Frost, Tom Willis and Zach Kibirige were also among the scorers in their first game of the new campaign – they were the “13th team” last week and consequently had goodbye – but Robson was the architect.
Given that Harry Randall has yet to start any of Bristol’s defeats, Robson will have hoped to have dealt a heavy blow in the battle against England’s commitment this fall. He was on the bench for both Summer Tests and it’s remarkable to think he still hasn’t made a debut for England.
For Bristol, this is another disappointing defeat. They’ve been fun to watch for much of this game, but error-prone and unruly. “People play rugby, the game plan creates opportunities but the players make mistakes and grow and that’s the beauty of this team,” said Bristol rugby manager Pat Lam. “We’ve been in this situation a few times, the Premiership is about 24 laps, points are being offered all the time and once you don’t get them you learn why not and move on.”
Wasps, meanwhile, have something to lean on as they await the return of injuries to Joe Launchbury, Jack Willis, Paolo Odogwu and Alfie Barbeary. On that proof, they added some defensive steel in the preseason – Vaea Fifita has drawn attention to his debut in this regard – and a brilliant campaign awaits them if they continue in that vein. “Defensively the way we held them was exceptional at times,” said Blackett. “We worked so hard on this in the offseason. Our resilience near the line was exceptional.
Crossdale has been on England’s radar for the past year, involved in larger squads but staying on the sidelines and although Eddie Jones’ last squad was littered with notable inclusions and absentees, the The omission of the lateral rear was somewhat disconcerting. He arrived from the Saracens this summer and it looks like the Wasps have a player in their hands considering this was only their third Premiership start.
“You saw how fast he is,” Blackett said. “Someone who has this ability to beat people at a breakneck pace. He’s still young, so there’s a lot more to come.
His first try came after Bristol took the lead via a penalty from Callum Sheedy and came after a considerable show of strength from Malakai Fekitoa. He handed the ball to Jacob Umaga, who was then sent to Crossdale. The 23-year-old sensed the opportunity, glued his ears back and got the pace to reach the left corner.
Bristol lost Harry Thacker to injury, but responded with a point blank try from Max Lahiff with Shields in the trash. Sheedy missed the conversion, however, before the Wasps immediately retaliated with a penalty from Umaga and Bristol ended up at the eight-point break after Wasps and Crossdale’s second try. A delicious 50:22 banana shot from Umaga – another omitted by Jones this week – gave the Wasps some territory and after forwards pushed them close to the line, Robson passed to Crossdale, who passed effortlessly Ioan Lloyd.
The Wasps were in a dominant position when Shields was grouped at close range five minutes into the second half – Jimmy Gopperth, for Fekitoa at half time, converting to a 23-8 lead. The Wasps put the result out of doubt when replacement hooker Frost leaped onto the loose ball after a strong counter-ruck and lunged for the line. Shields got his marching orders after he trashed a maul, but Willis’ late breakout on the line and Kibirige’s interception attempt topped it off.