Wasps too good for Dragons
November 2, 2008
The Dragons' defence gang up on Wasps' Damien Varley who scored one of his side's tries
© Getty Images
A late surge from London Wasps saw them score a 21-10 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons in their Anglo-Welsh Cup clash at Adams Park but it was not enough to secure a semi-final berth.
However, the Dragons fought bravely right to the end and could have won the match themselves. For Wasps, it was a case of win and hope that Newcastle could beat leaders Gloucester at Kingston Park if they were to progress into the semi-finals - however, the Cherry and Whites went through after an 11-10 victory.
Wasps started the match three points behind the West Country side in the group and just one ahead of the Welsh region who put in some impressive displays over the previous weeks against Bath and Gloucester, losing in the Heineken and Anglo-Welsh Cups respectively but getting losing bonus points in both.
The early stages went to Wasps as fly-half Dave Walder landed a touchline penalty after two minutes. Dragons fly-half Shaun Connor levelled after 12 minutes but another penalty from Walder took the home side into a 6-3 lead..
The early running attacks were mainly by Wasps, with wing Tom Voyce and centre Jeremy Staunton incisive. But the Dragons made a couple of inroads into the opposition 22 although, from these attacks, they turned the ball over to allow Wasps to clear.
The match began to turn Wasps' way when they pinned the Welsh side back in their own 22 but accurate throwing from Dragons captain Tom Willis allowed scrum-half Tom Isaacs to clear the lines three times. Additionally, there was a crucial five minutes just before the break when the Dragons held out on their own line despite pressure.
On 10 occasions the packs scrummaged, all of which were Wasps put-ins, and 10 times the Dragons held out through backs-to-the-wall defence. The sides fought out a desperate 3-3 draw in last year's competition but this was nothing like that dour October day.
Twice after the break, Wasps came close to getting that elusive try but both times the Dragons came away with it through needless mistakes by the home side. Finally, after 134 minutes of rugby between these sides over two games, there was, at last, a try - and it went to the Dragons.
Replacement centre Marc Stcherbina skirted his way through a gap in the Wasps midfield to reach the 22 before laying-off a perfect pass for co-centre Ashley Smith to race in unopposed, which Connor converted. Walder booted his third penalty of the afternoon to reduce the Wasps arrears to one point.
But the match went to uncontested scrums after loose-head prop Adam Black was forced off only for his replacement, Alex Murphy, to join him with a shoulder injury after just one set-piece against powerful Tim Payne who had caused Wales international tight-head Rhys Thomas all sorts of trouble during the game.
Wasps managed to get their noses back in front when replacement Damien Varley was driven over under a pile of bodies to the line and, after consulting with the touchjudge, referee Chris White awarded the touchdown. It gave the Londoners the momentum and they nearly went over again from close range.
The game burst into life again in the last six minutes as the Dragons forced Wasps to concede a scrum five which the Englishmen defended well before replacement scrum-half Eoin Reddan zipped through a gap and put pressure back on the Welsh side. And right at the end, England international Josh Lewsey pounced on a loose ball on the Dragons line to grab a second try for his side.
Wasps: van Gisbergen, Lewsey, Hoadley, Staunton, Voyce, Walder, Robinson, Payne, Webber, Barnard, Leo, Birkett, Hart, Betsen, Worsley.
Replacements: Lawler for Hoadley (74), Mitchell for Staunton (59), Reddan for Robinson (59), French for Payne (67), Lindsay for Webber (79), Varley for Barnard (66), Ellis for Leo (62).
Newport-Gwent D'gons: Dolman, Selley, Gomer-Davies, Smith, Fussell, Connor, Isaacs, Black, Willis, R. Thomas, MacDonald, Hall, Bearman, Ringer, L. Evans, Murphy.
Replacements: Stcherbina for Gomer-Davies (41), Murphy for Black (65), S. Jones for Willis (57), Brown for Hall (76), Lydiatt for Murphy (66). Not Used: Arlidge, W. Evans.
Ref: Chris White (RFU).