Aviva PremiershipBristol (7) 21Tries: Woodward, O’Connell, Fenton-Wells Cons: Henson, Searle (2)Wasps (21) 36Tries: Bassett 2, Taylor, Simpson, Wade, Thompson Cons: Gopperth (3)
Bristol have been relegated to the Championship with two games left to play after a brave defeat by ruthless Premiership leaders Wasps.
Jason Woodward’s try put them ahead but Josh Bassett, Tommy Taylor and Joe Simpson scored as Wasps went in ahead.
Christian Wade, Guy Thompson and Bassett went over for the visitors for a bonus point, which deflated Bristol.
The hosts rallied, Jack O’Connell and Nick Fenton-Wells touching down, but it could not stop them from going down.
Having finished top of the Championship in five seasons before in the play-offs last year, Bristol will return to the second-tier at the first time of asking.
After on Saturday, Mark Tainton’s Bristol needed two points from the game to prolong their relegation battle, but they lacked a clinical streak.
It leaves them 12 points adrift at the bottom of the table, with a maximum of 10 points on offer from their final two matches.
Wasps were far from at their best, on the back foot for much of the game, but have restored their five-point lead at the top and need one win from their last two to secure a home semi-final in the play-offs.
The Premiership’s top try-scorer Wade, on his 100th appearance for Dai Young’s side, did his England hopes no harm with his 16th score of the campaign.
An uphill battle
Bristol were promoted to the top tier on 25 May after winning their two-legged play-off final, with the Premiership season starting just 100 days later.
Director of rugby Andy Robinson, a former England head coach, was after his side lost their first 10 games of the campaign.
Tainton took interim charge and Bristol finally got their on Boxing Day, following it up with victory at Sale and a losing bonus point at Northampton, but it was a false dawn.
The meaning the team that finishes top will gain automatic promotion, may give Bristol more time to plan ahead next season if they are successful.
‘Hopefully we can bounce back quickly’
Connacht boss Pat Lam will have the task of bringing Bristol back into the Premiership, having in December to become head coach from June.
Tainton will remain at the helm for their final two matches at Saracens and at home to Newcastle, and remains optimistic about the future of the club.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to get relegated, but we’ve put a plan in place whether we were going to stay in the Premiership or get relegated,” he said.
“We have the infrastructure at Ashton Gate to be a Premiership team – we’re not going to be next year, but hopefully the supporters will still watch us in that league.
“Bristol more than most know what a difficult league it (the Championship) is, but hopefully we can bounce back very quickly.”
Bristol interim head coach Mark Tainton:
“It was a similar story to a lot of games – we’ve created an awful lot, we’ve been in the opposition 22 many times but we’ve just not executed and got across the line.
“We give Wasps an opportunity and they score tries, it’s as simple as that – that’s the difference in the level we need to get to.
“We were down and beaten in the second half but we played right until the very end of the game – I expect that from them in the next two games.”
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young:
“Obviously there are still things to work on, especially our starts – I thought our first 10 minutes, again, we made far too many mistakes and gave ourselves a bit of a hill to climb.
“We just had enough to do it but we make it hard for us really – there’s room to improve in every area, but I’m pretty pleased and felt we looked in control for most of the game.
“It’s up to us to nail it (a top-two finish) ourselves – we’re not relying on other people.”
Bristol: Woodward; Edwards, Hurrell, Henson, Tovey; Searle, Mathewson; Bevington, Jones (capt), Cortes, Phillips, Sorenson, Jeffries, Fenton-Wells, Eadie.
Replacements: Crumpton, O’Connell, Ford-Robinson, Glynn, Robinson, Williams, Pisi, Amesbury.
Wasps: Le Roux; Wade, Daly, Beale, Bassett; Gopperth, Simpson; Mullan, Taylor, Swainston, Launchbury (capt), Symons, Haskell, Thompson, Hughes.
Replacements: Cruse, Bristow, Cooper-Woolley, Myall, Young, Robson, Cipriani, Leiua.