Resilient Dragons claim late bonus
Worcester Warriors 34 Dragons 28
Battling Dragons suffered an early red card and first loss of the European season at Worcester Warriors – but a late try kept them top of the group.
Returning World Cup star Aaron Wainwright and captain Rhodri Williams both grabbed tries at Sixways Stadium.
However, the key moment of the Round 3 clash came when Number Eight Taine Basham was red carded for an alleged tip tackle on Gareth Simpson after 19 minutes.
Playing a man down for over an hour, Dragons showed plenty of heart and desire and led going into the final quarter in the West Midlands.
Two late scores eventually sent Worcester clear to wrap up the bonus point.
But a try from replacement scrum half Luke Baldwin – against his parent club – with less than two minutes to play snatched a deserved losing bonus point.
The result kept Dragons top of Pool 1 by a point ahead of the two teams meeting again in the second part of the double-header at Rodney Parade on Friday.
Director of Dragons Rugby, Dean Ryan, made eight changes to the starting line-up as Wales duo Wainwright and Elliot Dee featured for the first time while Ollie Griffiths, Sam Davies and Leon Brown were back.
Ryan’s men, though, were dealt an early blow when centre Tom Griffiths limped off, replaced by Adam Warren after six minutes.
Jamie Shillcock nudged Worcester into an early lead before Wainwright marked his return with a stunning score.
Wainwright burst through a big gap on the ten-metre line, after hitting the line at pace, and showed his acceleration to race up to the try line and bulldoze past Chris Pennell to score.
However, a huge turning point came on 19 minutes when referee Marius Mitrea sent off Basham, after lengthy discussions with his assistant, for a dangerous tackle.
Rocked by the decision, Davies saw a penalty slide left before Worcester went over for a first try, with centre Mills finishing off pressure and Shillcock converting.
Dragons were working hard to hold firm despite the numerical disadvantage, and two quick-fire penalties gave Davies the chance to reward that endeavor by levelling up the scores.
Shillcock, though, nudged Worcester back ahead, after a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
A series of mistakes from Worcester at start of the second half gave a platform for Dragons to play from.
Davies missed one penalty before Dragons struck as Warren and Tyler Morgan combined brilliantly to keep the ball alive and Williams arched away and made the corner for a 15-13 lead.
The home side were starting to concede penalties and get the wrong side of Mitrea, with Davies sending over another three points from long range.
Back came Worcester with centre Ollie Lawrence the man to score, and although Davies added another penalty, a further maximum from Noah Heward, after the ball popped out the side of a ruck, wrestled back the lead.
Replacement Jono Kitto scored after break from Lawrence but the final word went to Dragons as Davies chipped into space, collected and sent Baldwin over for what could yet be a crucial try.
07m Shillcock 3-0
14m Wainwright t Davies c 3-7
24m Mills t Shillcock c 10-7
33m Davies p 10-10
39m Shillcock p 13-10
46m R. Williams t 13-15
51m Davies p 13-18
56m Lawrence t Shilcock 20-18
58m Davies p 20-21
66m Heward t Shillcock c 27-21
73m Kitto t Shillcock 34-21
77m Baldwin t Davies c 34-28
Worcester: Noah Heward, Chris Pennell, Ollie Lawrence, Ryan Mills, Nick David, Jamie Shillcock, Michael Heaney; Ryan Bower, Matt Moulds, Conor Carey, Andrew Kitchener, Justin Clegg, Tom Dodd, Matt Cox, GJ van Velze
Replacements: Isaac Miller, Kai Owen, Richard Palframan, James Scott, Morgan Monks, Jono Kitto, Gareth Simpson, Callum Morris
Dragons: Will Talbot-Davies, Owen Jenkins, Tyler Morgan, Tom Griffiths (Warren 6), Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Baldwin 75); Brok Harris (Reynolds 75), Richard Hibbard (Dee 60), Leon Brown (Jarvis 60), Joe Davies (M. Williams 75), Matthew Screech, Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths (Taylor 72), Taine Basham
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Josh Reynolds, Aaron Jarvis, Max Williams, Huw Taylor, Luke Baldwin, Jacob Botica, Adam Warren
Referee: Marius Mitrea (ITA)