Premiership semi-final: Wasps 47-24 Bristol Bears - Wasps make first final since 2017

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Jack Willis
Try-scorer Jack Willis impressed on both sides of the ball in front of England boss Eddie Jones
Gallagher Premiership semi-final
Wasps (23) 47
Tries: Fekitoa, J Willis, Robson, Kibirige, Minozzi Cons: Gopperth 5 Pens: Gopperth 4
Bristol Bears (5) 24
Tries: Morahan, Thacker, Randall, Malins Cons: Sheedy 2

Wasps reached their first Premiership final since 2017 as they beat Bristol in an exciting semi-final.

Malakai Fekitoa's try and and two Jimmy Gopperth penalties put Wasps 13-0 up before Luke Morahan's try for Bristol.

Another Gopperth penalty and a try from the impressive Jack Willis gave Wasps an 18-point lead at half-time.

Harry Thacker got a try back but Dan Robson, Zach Kibirige and Matteo Minozzi saw off Bristol, before Harry Randall and Max Malins went over late.

Wasps will face Exeter at Twickenham on Saturday, 24 October, while Bristol's season can still end with silverware as they face Toulon in Friday's European Challenge Cup final.

Wasps take advantage of Bristol indiscipline

Wasps v Bristol
Wasps defence did well to keep Bristol's big running threats Semi Radradra and Nathan Hughes quiet for much of the game

A fiercely competitive start to the game saw both sides hit one another hard at the breakdown as they tried to assert their control.

The first half was more even than the 18-point gap at the break suggested, with a ruthless Wasps turning almost every Bristol infringement into points.

A penalty kicked to touch set Lee Blackett's side up for the first points of the game, as Robson's wonderfully weighted kick from just inside the Bristol 22 evaded the Bears' defensive line and allowed Fekitoa to dash through and go in under the posts. It came at a cost, however, as the try-scorer limped off after injuring his groin as he gathered the ball to score.

Wasps added two penalties from Gopperth before Hughes took a quick tap penalty 15 metres from Wasps' line and fed scrum-half Andy Uren, whose excellent looped pass found Morahan in space on the right wing to dive over for Bristol's opening try in the 21st minute.

But Wasps ended the half the better as Gopperth kicked a third penalty before converting Willis' try.

The score from Wasps' young star came against the run of play after Thomas Young stole the ball from a ruck inside his own 22 and raced away down the left wing just as Bristol pressed for a second try.

Willis then took over and gained the field position for his side to force him over from close range a few phases later with five minutes of the half left.

Wasps blow Bristol away

Wasps players celebrate
Wasps' victory sees them reach their 11th Premiership final

With England coach Eddie Jones looking on, Willis was impressive on both sides of the ball as he dominated the breakdown and impressed in defence.

Six minutes after the break he managed to stop Callum Sheedy from dotting down in the left corner.

However, Willis and his team-mates were powerless to stop the Bristol maul soon after, as Thacker was forced in from close range to get the Bears to within nine points.

But a fourth Gopperth penalty - his sixth successful kick from six - further increased the lead as Wasps went on to score 27 points in a 15-minute period that left the Bears stunned and their hopes of a first Premiership final in tatters.

First, scrum-half Robson - another looking to impress England boss Jones - took a quick penalty and darted over from 10 metres and three minutes later the game was effectively over as Kibirige sprinted three quarters of the length of the field after nicking the ball when Max Malins fumbled Siale Piutau's poor pass.

A lovely kick from Gopperth, who was excellent with his boot throughout, set up another try soon after, with Josh Bassett gathering the ball on the left wing and Italian full-back Minozzi was there in support to run in from distance.

But credit to Bristol, who did not give up and scored two excellent consolation tries.

Randall got himself on the end of a flowing backs move, which has been the Bears' signature this season, before Malins superbly chipped the ball over the last defender before gathering his kick to score.

Wasps head coach Lee Blackett:

"Joe (Launchbury, Wasps captain) addressed the team afterwards, and his big comment was to enjoy it, but that we haven't played our final.

"Sometimes you think you have played your final to get there, and there is a lot of emotion gone in, so we just need to control ourselves.

"Yes, enjoy it, but in two weeks' time we have got a big game coming up. It is about keeping our emotions under wraps."

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam:

"We turned the ball over 23 times and we gave away eight penalties on attack, which meant we couldn't get a foothold in the game - but you have got to give a lot of credit to Wasps.

"At half-time we said there was no rocket science involved. We didn't fire a shot because we made too many errors.

"When I was coaching at Connacht and looking at the Premiership, there was no mention of Bristol, and probably at the start of the season probably nobody predicted that Bristol would be in play-off rugby.

"To grow and get to the sort of team we want to be, we've got to be playing in this sort of rugby."

Wasps: Minozzi; Kibirige, Fekitoa, Gopperth, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; McIntyre, Taylor, Brookes, Launchbury (capt), Rowlands, J Willis, Young, Shields.

Replacements: Oghre, West, Alo, Gaskell, Barbeary, T Willis, Vellacott, Le Bourgeois.

Bristol: Malins; Morahan, Radradra, S Piutau, O'Conor; Sheedy, Uren; Woolmore, Thacker, Afoa, Joyce, Vui, Luatua (capt), Earl, Hughes.

Replacements: Kloska, Y Thomas, Sinckler, Holmes, D Thomas, Randall, Bedlow, Leiua.

Referee: Matthew Carley.