Dragons' makeshift den proves no fortress as Wasps 'win ugly'

Newport-Gwent Dragons 16 Wasps 23
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The Independent Online

While the Dragons coach, Paul Turner was left fuming at what might have been, his opposite number, Tony Hanks, was simply happy at having seen his side "win ugly".

It had been a while since Wasps had won away in the Heineken Cup, but they came into the resumption of European action in Pool Six on the back of five successive wins in all competitions and looking at the back-to-back matches with the Dragons for the points they need to challenge reigning champions Toulouse for a quarter-final slot.

There are only two points between the two teams at present and there could be a last round shoot-out between them next month at Adams Park to see who takes top spot.

"You can't get too far ahead of yourselves. We didn't play well against the Dragons and our performance in general concerned me," Hanks admitted.

"We made poor decisions getting out of our 22 and made far too many unforced errors. I lost count of the number of times we dropped the ball.

"We just didn't seem to have the same spirit about us as in recent weeks, although give Dragons credit for putting us under so much pressure. They were pretty keen to take an English scalp and we were pretty keen to make sure it wasn't ours.

"Away wins are difficult to get in the Heineken Cup and I think we deserve a pat on the back for getting one against a tough Dragons side – and for winning ugly."

It was the second season in a row that the Dragons had been forced to switch a home match to a different venue because of the poor condition of their Rodney Parade pitch. Last year's frost saw them take Biarritz Olympique to Parc y Scarlets, while this cold snap meant a trip to Cardiff City Stadium for their fans.

At least an early call meant a bigger turn-out than last year's all-time tournament low attendance of 672 in Llanelli, with 3,342 fans making the switch this time. Those Dragons fans who made the trek were rewarded with a terrific opening in which their side raced into a 10 points lead in as many minutes. Jason Tovey knocked over a penalty in the first minute and released his skipper Ashley Smith for a try with a superb piece of handling.

The conversion was a formality and the Dragons were breathing the kind of fire that has singed so many teams this season. Few teams open up the Wasps defence as easily as the home side did in that early move, but it held firm thereafter.

As hard as the Welsh region knocked on the door, the Wasps defenders somehow thwarted them. Twice the referee went upstairs to the TMO, and on both occasions the Dragons missed out.

That infuriated Turner, particularly as replays of the first of Wasps' three tries showed there was a forward pass and knock-on involved before Ben Jacobs scored.

"That forward pass and knock-on for their first try, and the fact the referee went to the TMO as we were in the act of scoring, meant there was a 14-point swing in the scoring. We played some of our best rugby of the season, but we didn't get what we deserved," Turner said.

Jacobs' try was converted off the touchline by Dave Walder to level the scores midway through the first-half, but the boot of Tovey hoisted the Dragons into a 16-13 interval lead. That, though, was all the home side could muster.

Second half tries from wings David Lemi and Tom Varndell put Wasps in front and their defence did the rest.

Scorers: Newport-Gwent Dragons: Try A Smith; Conversion J Tovey; Penalties J Tovey 2; DG: J Tovey. Wasps: Tries B Jacobs, D Lemi, T Varndell; Conversion D Walder; Penalties D Walder.

Newport Gwent Dragons: P Leach; A Hughes, T Riley, A Smith (capt), A Brew; J Tovey (M Jones 45), W Evans; P Price (H Gustafson 38), L Burns, N Hall (B Castle 38), A Jones (S Morgan 49), R Sidoli, L Evans, G Thomas, T Faletau

Wasps: M van Gisbergen (R Haughton 56); T Varndell, B Jacobs (capt), S Kefu, D Lemi; D Walder, J Simpson; Z Taulafo (S Ruwers 64), J Ward, B Broster, S Shaw, J Cannon (M Veale 77), J Worsley, S Betsen (D Ward-Smith 52), A Powell

Referee: P Allan (Scotland)