Gopperth show stings Gloucester
PREMIERSHIP SUNDAY WRAP: Wasps utility back Jimmy Gopperth claimed 25 points, including a hat-trick, as his team restored a six-point advantage at the top of the table with a bonus-point 35-22 win over Gloucester.
They were forced to work extremely hard by the visitors though, who retained hopes of ending the hosts' long unbeaten league home record until five minutes from time.
Elsewhere, Gavin Henson kicked 12 points against former club Bath on his first start since October as Bristol edged out the West Country Derby 12-11. That takes Mark Tainton's side within two points of 11th-place Worcester Warriors, following their third win of the season, ramping up the pressure ahead of next weekend's clash at Sixways.
Henson knocked over an early drop goal to take Bristol ahead but compatriot Rhys Priestland pulled Bath level with 30 minutes gone. Three more Henson penalties before half-time ensured that Bristol led 12-3 at the break, with Welsh flyhalf Priestland reducing it to 12-6 just shy of the hour mark.
Semesa Rokoduguni then plucked his 10th try of the year out of the air, snaffling Tusi Pisi's pass and racing the length before Priestland's missed conversion let Bristol off the hook.
All Sunday's scores and scorers!
Wasps 35-22 Gloucester
Willie le Roux thought he had scored in the third minute, but his interception was recalled by the referee's whistle, and Gloucester drew first blood from the resulting penalty through Billy Twelvetrees' well-struck kick.
Kurtley Beale's slashing break then put Wasps deep in cherry-and-white territory, and after a powerful James Gaskell carry, Gopperth squeezed into the corner for the opening try. A poor line-out exit then cost Wasps seven points as James Hook cruised over for a try, which Twelvetrees converted from a scrum.
Despite playing into a stiff breeze, Gloucester were brimming with confidence after their win over Saracens last weekend and dominated territory for much of the first half. But after Twelvetrees was narrowly wide with an angled 30-metre penalty, Wasps finally escaped and claimed three points through Gopperth's simple penalty, when the visitors were caught offside.
Better followed for the hosts when Gopperth joined a driving line-out to claim his second try.
Gloucester wing David Halaifonua's score in the opening minutes of the second half soon brought things level, before Wasps claimed a score of genuine quality.
It began with Alex Rieder's midfield burst, after which Thomas Young recovered Danny Cipriani's delicate chip and put le Roux in for his first Wasps try, which Gopperth converted. The Wasps centre then added his second penalty of a prolific afternoon after Gloucester collapsed a driving line-out eight metres out.
The hosts were now in the ascendancy, and replacement wing Josh Bassett was only denied by the TMO, who ruled he had failed to ground the ball on the end of a flowing handling move.
Gloucester then thought they had thrown themselves a lifeline when their forwards drove Matt Scott, only for the TMO to rule the score out.
However, Wasps missed touch from the restart, and this time Gloucester's Scottish international centre made no mistake as he broke a couple of tackles to race over for a score which Twelvetrees upgraded.
With only three points separating the teams, Wasps' decision to go to the corner rather than kick at goal with six minutes remaining looked a brave one, but it was duly rewarded by a second driving line-out score, inevitably again touched down by Gopperth who charged into the maul from the centre.
And Wasps set a seal on things with the final play, when Christian Wade skated to the corner to round off a perfect afternoon.
Tries: Gopperth 3, Le Roux, Wade
Cons: Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth 2
Tries: Hook, Halaifonua, Scott
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Jimmy Gopperth, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Willie Le Roux, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Alex Rieder, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan (captain)
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Josh Bassett
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Paul Doran-Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 John Afoa, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Callum Braley, 22 James Hook, 23 Henry Trinder
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant referees: Wayne Falla, Peter Allan
TMO: Geoff Warren
Bristol 12-11 Bath
The returning Jonathan Joseph and No.8 Paul Grant combined effectively to put David Denton through to score, but the Scottish international fumbled with the line beckoning on nine minutes.
Henson, starting a game at flyhalf for the first time since he was a Bath player, put Bristol ahead with a smartly-taken drop-goal in the 11th minute.
The Grand Slam winner had another drop-goal shot and a 50-metre penalty attempt, but it was Priestland who notched the next points, thumping over a penalty with 10 minutes left in the half to get Bath back on level terms.
It was all about Bristol's new-look half back pairing as the half wore on, Alby Mathewson's good work in attack leading to a penalty shot for Henson that the Welshman duly banged over.
Bath again gifted Henson a shot at the sticks when influential fullback Jason Woodward looked to break outside, with the 35-year-old obliging to put Bristol 9-3 ahead at the break.
Priestland missed a shot to narrow the game a minute into the second period and when Rokoduguni spilled a Woodward kick. A third Henson penalty followed and the game seemed to be shifting further in Bristol's favour.
Scotland No.8 David Denton looked to have bundled over in the corner after some fine handling in the centres from Ben Tapuai, but a stray foot in touch cost Blackadder's side - Mathewson with a covering tackle on the big back-rower.
Priestland's 58th-minute penalty closed the gap, but it was the ever-dangerous Rokoduguni who pulled Bath within a point 10 minutes later.
The England wing picked off a stray Pisi pass to race away unchallenged, but with Priestland missing a relatively straightforward conversion, Bristol kept their noses in front at 12-11.
A messy clear-out from Guy Mercer handed Bristol a chance to clear their lines as Bath searched for the match-winner before Rokoduguni spilled a second high-ball to give the hosts another handle in the Bath half.
Pens: Henson 3
Pens: Priestland 2
Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 David Lemi, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Jordan Crane (captain), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Jack Wallace
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Harry Davies, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Paul Grant, 7 David Denton, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Max Clark
Referee: Greg M Garner
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Steve Lee
TMO: David Grashoff