Wasps resurrected their play-off hopes in the nick of time with a thrilling 32-30 GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory over Bristol at Adams Park.
After eight minutes of added time Bristol led 30-25 but were repeatedly penalised close to their line and following a yellow card for Andrew Blowers, replacement scrum-half Mark McMillan dived over at the base of a scrum.
That brought the two teams level and Dave Walder, Danny Cipriani’s deputy at stand-off, added the conversion with the very last kick to lift Wasps from eighth to sixth in the table and give coach Craig Dowd the victory he wanted in his final game before returning to New Zealand.
It was nail-biting stuff, each side scoring four tries and the visitors probably felt hard done by with Blowers thinking he had scored what would have been a clinching try after 74 minutes, but referee Ashley Rowden ruled he had dropped the ball on the line.
So much were Wasps depleted by international call-ups that McMillan had been put on the bench the day after playing some of Scotland A’s match against Ireland.
Wasps began how they left off at Bath last week and after eight minutes were already 12-0 up.
Less than three minutes were on the clock when Tom Palmer’s lineout take set up the attacking platform, and Bristol were simply cut apart by centre Dominic Waldouck’s weaving 40-metre run to the line.
Right wing Mark van Gisbergen landed the easy conversion and the visitors were soon breached again. This time the ball moved along the line, full-back Josh Lewsey created an overlap and left wing David Doherty went over in the corner.
Having beaten leaders Gloucester last week it was a nightmare opening for Richard Hill’s men, but an Ed Barnes penalty opened their account and in the 17th minute they cut the deficit to 12-8 against the run of play.
A kick downfield by wing David Lemi saw the bounce of the ball go against the Wasps cover back into the hands of Lemi and on for centre Rob Higgitt to score.
Worse was to come for last year’s European champions after they lost flanker John Hart to injury.
Although van Gisbergen kicked a penalty and then pulled off a brilliant try-saving tackle on wing Anthony Elliott, the resultant scrum came back on the Bristol side, full-back Luke Arscott found captain Matt Salter and Elliott was unstoppable this time.
Barnes’ conversion made it 15-15, which was how it remained at the break with van Gisbergen fluffing a relatively easy penalty with the last kick of the half.
Within three minutes of the restart Bristol went ahead for the first time thanks to another Barnes penalty. Back came Wasps, their pressure eventually telling with hooker Joe Ward making the final few yards for their third try.
Walder took over the kicking duties from van Gisbergen and slotted over the conversion, yet before the hour was up Bristol had scored two more tries and were, to the stunned silence of the home fans, 30-22 ahead.
Declining a kick at goal they had a lineout two yards out and hooker Scott Linklater touched down, then, once Barnes had added the conversion, Elliott went through again after Lewsey lost control of the ball at his feet and centre David Hill stole it.
But Walder’s 71st-minute penalty brought Wasps back within one score and set up the gripping climax.