Rugby: Wasps and Bristol into playoffs, Bath must wait

LONDON (Reuters) - Wasps and Bristol secured their place in the English Premiership playoffs with victories over Exeter and London Irish on Sunday but Bath might have blown their chances and will have to wait to discover whether their draw with Saracens will be enough.

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Sunday’s programme was due to finalise the four qualifiers for next week’s semi-finals but the postponement of Sale’s game against Worcester after 16 Sale players tested positive for COVID-19, threw a spanner into the works.

That match is due to be played on Wednesday, subject to health clearing, with Sale now knowing a win will send them through - either in third or fourth place.

Bristol knew they needed a four-try, bonus-point victory to pile the pressure on Sale and duly delivered with a 36-7 scoreline, which, due to Bath’s late collapse, unexpectedly sent them through.

Tries for Semi Radrada and Ben Earl gave them a 17-0 halftime lead in the game being played at Harlequins’ Stoop ground. It then got nervy until a maul put Harry Thacker over and a penalty try five minutes from time sent Bristol into the playoffs for the first time.

Bath also notched first-half tries through Ben Obano and Ben Spencer to lead 14-3 and look on course for progress.

They knew that any win would see them through but Saracens, already guaranteed to be relegated, showed great spirit to hit back with a Tim Swinson try and a late penalty try to earn a 17-17 draw and hand the advantage to Sale.

Exeter, already assured of top spot on 74 points and a home semi-final, fielded a largely reserve team against a Wasps side who have become a totally different proposition in the second half of the season after a poor start.

Tries by halfback duo Jacob Umaga and Dan Robson and one from 37-year-old Jimmy Gopperth helped Wasps to a 25-0 halftime lead and the bonus point was secured within three minutes of the restart via Josh Bassett.

Two late scores for Ben Vellacott and Gopperth’s goalkicking secured a 46-5 victory that took Wasps to 71 points and second place, earning a home semi-final, against either Bristol or Sale.

Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond