‘I’ve loved it,” said Wasps head coach Lee Blackett, reflecting on a period in which his side has picked up 28 Gallagher Premiership points in as many days.
Wasps secured a sixth win in seven outings since the 2019/20 season restarted following a five-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic with a 59-35 victory over Bristol Bears at the Ricoh Arena.
Their nine tries registered against Pat Lam’s heavily-rotated Bears took Wasps to 17 scored and 113 points registered inside a week following the 54-7 annihilation of Leicester Tigers – who were also under-strength heading to Coventry.
It has led to some questioning the integrity of the competition being compromised, but Blackett held up the defence of his side’s incredible 28-18 success at Allianz Park over a fully-loaded Saracens side. The reigning champions were priced at 1/50 to win but came undone against a Wasps team carrying 14 changes from the previous round.
“I think a lot of people would have said miss-match if you look at our side going down to Saracens,” said Blackett. “People were saying that was a miss-match yet it didn’t look that way.
“I personally, I think it would be different if we hadn’t been winning, I’ve loved it, it’ been an amazing period to seeing all the guys playing. We’ve played 42 players, that’s incredible. It’s given us a great opportunity for the young kids to play, and to see how good our academy is.
“I’m excited. I’ve enjoyed it in terms of I love seeing the academy staff how happy they are because it’s proof of the brilliant job they are doing. To see those guys get the opportunity, for example Tom [WIllis] today, he’s obviously played a fair bit for us, they are the guys getting the opportunities and they are really pushing this team.”
Wasps took an early lead through Jack Willis’ try inside the first minute and had secured a try-scoring bonus point with 17 minutes on the clock. Bristol Bears fought back with converted tries from Max Mallins and Piers O’Connor but a seventh try of a frenetic half, from Zach Kibirige, gave the hosts a 17-point lead at the break.
That was stretched out by a further 14 points as Dan Robson crossed shortly before the forwards forced a penalty try. Five more tries would be scored in a frenzied final 22 minutes as Tom Willis and Gabriel Oghre took Wasps’ tally to nine while Bristol grabbed a bonus point through Mallins’ second, a penalty try before concluding the game with Peter McCabe’s drive for the line.
“The starts to games have been one of the weaknesses,” said Blackett. “Fortunately it was the first game where we have actually gone ahead, in the first six games since lockdown, we’ve actually gone behind.
“Considering how we started, I couldn’t have asked for more I think this is probably the first game we have actually asked the boys to back up.
“Normally the boys have generally on the whole had six, seven, eight days between games. So it’s the first time we didn’t rotate so it’s the first time we have asked the boys to go that extra mile for us.
“There were a boys that were backing up so that probably told second half you could see a few of the guys were getting tired especially how hot it was. So the one disappointment was giving them a point but let’s focus on ourselves five points, five more points, we roll on to Harlequins.”
Wasps moved second in the league following results elsewhere with two rounds remaining. First they travel to Harlequins on Monday, September 28, before hosting Exeter at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday, October 4.
Having exited the European Challenge Cup at the group stages, Wasps have clear space in front of them allowing Blackett to give his squad and staff some time off.
He said: “Once the Harlequins fixture was confirmed we could give the guys the next week off. Players and staff, they have put such a massive effort in having to back up. The effort that has gone in, from the playing side of things and the staff, I couldn’t ask more from everyone really.
“So we will have some time off for those guys, they deserve it and hopefully we’re fresh before we go again.”