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Rhys Jones gave the home side the lead with a third-minute penalty from 30 metres, after Wasps lost a turnover in midfield.
Wasps levelled immediately, after a Dragons knock-on, from Joe Carlisle’s restart, just inside their 22. A powerful Wasps scrum sent the home pack backwards, yielding a penalty, and Carlisle made no mistake with the kick at goal.
Wasps came close to the first try, when Tommy Bell joined the line at speed. He fed Tom Howe out on the right wing, but the defence caught him, a few metres from the line, and Wasps were penalised at the breakdown.
The Wasps forwards were already establishing the upper hands at the scrums, but the best attacking opportunity came when Jonah Holmes gathered a misdirected crossfield, in acres of space, just inside his own 22. He made a few metres downfield, before feeding Tommy Bell, who had come outside him, but the defence did well to force him into touch.
After 22 minutes, a second Rhys Jones penalty, from 35 metres, put the home side back in front.
Six minutes, another impressive Wasps scrum won them a penalty, inside the Dragons 22. They opted to go for the corner, and were rewarded when Matt Everard went over for a try, following a well-controlled catch and drive. Carlisle’s conversion was off target.
The lead lasted less than two minutes, as the Wasps defence failed to gather a high kick, on their 10-metre line. First they left it to bounce, then they knocked on. Ashley Smith pounced on the loose ball, and powered his way into the 22. He fed lock Cory Hill, who sent winger Matthew Pewtner in, in the right-hand corner. Rhys Jones added the extra points, with a superb touchline conversion.
A Wasps handling error, in the Dragons 22, then gave Pewtner the chance to break away down the right. He made 30 metres, before throwing a long inside pass that must have gone at least five metres forwards, but was not called by the officials. Dragons kept up the pressure through a series of phases and it took some excellent defence to keep them out, until they knocked on, a metre from the line. Wasps won a penalty from the scrum, and the whistle went for half-time, with the home side 13-8 ahead.
The opening minutes of the second half were a scrappy affair, with little to stir the crowd, until a long-range Rhys Jones penalty fell just short, in the 48th minute.
Three minutes later, Jones split the Wasps defence, and seemed certain to score, only for Tommy Bell to deny him, with a last-ditch ankle tap.
Wasps finally found an attacking edge, when Jonah Holmes broke away down the left, and combined well with Sam Jones. The move was stopped near the left corner, but play was worked back across to the right, but Esteban Lozada knocked on.
Wasps made a series of replacements, with Andy Goode, Joe Simpson and Kearnan Myall all joining the action, in place of Tommy Bell, Jack Moates and James Cannon. Within seconds of their entrance, tempers frayed and there was a free-for-all, involving most of the forwards. After lengthy consultation, the referee warned both captains.
With the game inside the final quarter, Wasps won a penalty, which they kicked to the corner. When they won another penalty, following the lineout, they opted for a scrum, but were penalised for collapsing. A minute later, another flare-up saw the referee lose his patience, and Kearnan Myall was shown a yellow card, with 15 minutes left to play.
Wasps then changed both their props, with Simon McIntyre and Will Taylor coming on. Ten minutes from time, Andy Goode missed a 42-metre penalty.
Three minutes later, Dragons made the game safe, with their third try. From a lineout, inside their half, the forwards drove upfield, taking play well into the Wasps half. When they released the ball, a huge pass out to the left put the defence in two minds, and winger Ashton Hewitt streaked away for a decisive score. The conversion put the home side 20-8 in front.
In the closing minutes, Wasps finally produced some glimpses of attacking intention, with Ed Jackson producing some impressive bursts. But it was too little, too late and the home side came close to a bonus point, following a superb attack from deep in their own territory.
Wasps return to Aviva Premiership action next Sunday, the 24th, when Bath are the visitors to Adams Park.
Wasps team: Tommy Bell; Jonah Holmes, Ben Jacobs, Chris Bell (capt.), Tom Howe; Joe Carlisle, Jack Moates; Ricky Reeves, Neil Cochrane, Phil Swainston, Esteban Lozada, James Cannon, James Haskell, Matt Everard, Sam Jones
Replacements: Carlo Festuccia, Simon McIntyre, Will Taylor, Kearnan Myall, Ed Jackson, Joe Simpson, Andy Goode, Charlie Hayter
Dragons: Rhys Jones; Ashton Hewitt, Tyler Morgan, Ashley Smith, Matthew Pewtner; Steffan Jones, Jonathan Evans; Phil Price, Hugh Gustafson, Nathan Buck, Cory Hill, Robert Sidoli (c), Netani Talei, James Benjamin, Ieuan Jones.
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Aaron Coundley, Dan Way, Joe Davies, Scott Matthews, Luc Jones, Dorian Jones, Will Harries.