Determined Dragons denied by Wasps fight back.
By David Wilkinson
A fine performance by the Dragons was not enough to bring a deserved victory over European giants Wasps in round three of the Heineken Cup. Despite leading at half time a second half fight back from Wasps thwarted the home side.
Earlier in the week the Dragons were dealt the blow when due to the continued freezing conditions in Newport, they were forced to change venue from Rodney Parade to Cardiff City Stadium. They suffered a further setback losing Captain Tom Willis alongside Wales internationals Danny Lydiate and Luke Charteris to injury.
Un-phased by the unfamiliar surroundings it was the Dragons who had the better of the opening exchanges. They put Wasps under pressure from kickoff and were rewarded with a penalty within the first minute which Jason Tovey slotted.
The Dragons continued to pile on the pressure and following a fine passing move between Tovey and Brew, a flash of genius saw Tovey send Smith in to score the opening try. Tovey converted making the score 10-0.
Wasps came back into the game following the early Dragons pressure and were rewarded with a penalty which Walder converted, atoning for his earlier miss.
As the game opened up, mid- way through the second half, Pat Leach looked to attack following some poor hands in the Wasps midfield, he chipped ahead only for the ball to be gathered by Simon Shaw. Shaw was the unlikely catalyst for a counter attack, Wasps surged up field, only to be halted just short of the line, however, they kept their patience and Captain Ben Jacobs crossed moments later.
The Dragons’ players and fans were incensed as it seemed that the referee had missed a forward pass and knock on earlier in the move, the protests were ignored and Walder converted to level the scores.
This spurred the Dragons on and the impressive Tovey continued his 100% record with the boot to add a penalty and drop goal to leave the scores at 16-10. Spirits were dampened when Nigel Hall was stretchered off with a suspected ruptured Achilles tendon and fellow prop Phil Price forced off with a rib injury. Walder grabbed a late penalty to make the score 16-13 going into the break.
The Dragons deserved their lead having put Wasps under considerable amounts of pressure in the first half, yet it was the visitors who drew first blood in the second half. The elusive David Lemi crossed in the corner following a Steve Kefu break.
Walder missed the kick but Wasps were ahead for the first time in the game. The try was not the last of the Dragons woes, the impressive Tovey was injured attempting to tackle Lemi and was replaced by Matthew Jones.
It was Wasps that dominated the third quarter of the game and Varndell gained the visitors third following a period of concerted pressure. Walder again missed the kick but Wasps now boasted a seven point lead.
The Dragons refused to lie down and thoroughly dominated the visitors in the final quarter, Toby Faletau was once again impressive taking on Wasps up front. The Dragons pressed hard but were unlucky as Matthew Jones missed two tricky shots at goal, while the TMO twice disallowed tries for the hosts.
The Dragons pressed to grab a try but their attempts were in vain as the referee blew the whistle to bring an end to proceedings. A promising yet frustrating afternoon for the Men of Gwent who now travel to face Wasps at Adams Park next week.
Dragons (16) 16
Try: Smith Con: Tovey Pens: Tovey (2) DG: Tovey
Wasps (13) 23
Tries: Jacobs, Lemi, Varndell Con: Walder Pens: Walder (2)
Dragons: Leach, Hughes, Riley, Smith, A. Brew, Tovey, W. Evans, Price, Burns, Hall, A. Jones, Sidoli, L. Evans, G. Thomas, Faletau.
Replacements: M. Jones for Tovey (47), Gustafson for Price (38), Castle for Hall (38), Morgan for A. Jones (66). Not Used: S. Jones, H. Ellis, Leadbeater, N. Brew.
Wasps: van Gisbergen, Varndell, Jacobs, Kefu, Lemi, Walder, Simpson, Taulafo, Ward, Broster, Shaw, Cannon, Worsley, Betsen Tchoua, Powell.
Replacements: Haughton for van Gisbergen (56), Ruwers for Taulafo (64), Ward-Smith for Betsen Tchoua (51). Not Used: Lindsay, Baker, Veale, Berry, Jewell.
Referee: Peter Allan (SRU)