Wasps marked their return to Heineken Champions Cup action with a bonus-point victory over the Dragons at Rodney Parade.
The hosts were forced into six late changes due to two players testing positive for Covid-19 but trailed by just four points entering the final ten minutes.
First-half tries from Tom Cruse and Dan Robson were countered by Jonah Holmes’ score after the break but Wasps turned the screw late on with Jack Willis and Thomas Young crossing the line to secure maximum points for Lee Blackett’s side.
Four yellow cards were awarded across the contest with Jared Rosser the first to be given a 10-minute rest for an illegal tackle on Zach Kibirige. Wasps made the numbers pays with Robson firing a tantalising pass that caused defensive disorganisation and hooker Cruse pounced to gleefully stride home for the game’s opening points.
Sam Davies was successful with one penalty kick and wayward with another as Dragons pulled within two points before Wasps landed their second try 10 minutes before the break.
Lima Sopoaga, guilty of an interception pass against Newcastle Falcons last week, returned a kick down the blindside and red Josh Bassett. The rangy winger dummied deliciously down the left wing before putting Robson in under the posts. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion gave Wasps a nine-point lead they took into the half-time interval.
Dragons chances of getting back in the game were increased as Sopoaga was yellow carded for an illegal hit on Josh Lewis in a one-on-one situation. Wasps threatened to see out the 10-minute period without conceding but smart work from Nick Tompkins and Jamie Roberts paved the way for Holmes to score against his former club.
Wasps returned to a full compliment of players as Dragons took a turn with 14 as Aaron Jarvis’ torrid evening at tighthead resulted in a yellow card.
Gopperth and Davies both missed long-range efforts at goal before Jack Willis peeled off a dominant maul to end the game as contest and Young’s try ensured all five points went back with Wasps over the boarder.
Here’s how our reporters Bobby Bridge and Adam Dickinson rated the Wasps players out of ten…
Lima Sopoaga: Lovely break down the blindside to spark the move that led to Robson’s try. Yellow carded for a no-arms tackle on Lewis as the Dragon broke down the right wing. 6
Zach Kibirige: Will rue spilling a loose ball in his own 22 with space in front of him in the second half. Defended his wing channel well. 6
Paolo Odogwu: Superb turnover at the start of the second half is becoming a great weapon for Wasps. Some loose moments but again looked strong in his new position. 7
Jimmy Gopperth: Once more his kicking wasn’t up to his usual standards, landing just two from five – put some were tricky. Assured in possession and strong in defence helping guide young Atkinson alongside him. 7
Josh Bassett: Industrious showing from the wing.The highlight was a flithy dummy on Rhodri Williams before he put Robson over for Wasps’ second try. Showed good physicality, shutting down several breaks by dragging attacking Dragons into touch. 8
Charlie Atkinson: Bar a knock-on in his first high-ball test, the teenager didn’t show he was feeling the pressure in his first senior start. He played well flat to the line, creating two breaks into Dragons’ 22 off left-handed set pieces. Nearly created a try of Bassett with a sumptuous cross-field kick. 7
Dan Robson : Inspirational return from the England scrum-half. Created the first try with a great pass to Cruse and was in support to run in the second himself. Kept the tempo high with his quick taps and also kicked well when called upon. 8*
Tom West: Had the rule over Dragons tighthead Aaron Jarvis, winning five penalties alongside several resets as the 16-cap international buckled under the pressure and was eventually sent from the field with a yellow card. 8
Tom Cruse: Wasps’ lineout didn’t function flawlessly, a stolen throw in the home 22 after the Rosser yellow card the biggest loss. But it was fine as a whole, and Cruse showed good pace for his try, holding off Jonah Holmes. Penalty concession gifted three points but his good moments far outweighed the bad. 7
Kieran Brookes: Good early linespeed allied by scrum solidity as a platform was built for Wasps to attack from in the first half. Emptied the tank before being replaced with 30 minutes remaining. 7
Joe Launchbury: Mixed bag from the returning captain with a penalty concession and a knock on in the first half. Still got through a truck load of work in the tight quarters though. 6
Will Rowlands: Lineout functioned better when he was jumping and smart play to pin Brock Harris in the ruck that won a penalty. Made hard yards and some key covering tackles, but carded late-on for failed interception. 7
Jack Willis: Trademark powerful break off the maul for the try that sealed Wasps’ win, carrying three of the opposition over the whitewash with him. Willis then made another big break which fractured Dragons’ line for Young’s try. 7.5
Thomas Young: Big hit on Sam Davies at end of first half to shut down Dragons’ last attack. But the highlight delightful line to run in unopposed for the bonus point line – a break that wouldn’t have been out of place by a centre. 7.5
Alfie Barbeary: Transferred his powerful start to the Premiership into his European debut. Had several strong carries, looked especially dangerous in the wider channels. He also seems to have Robson’s intuition for a break, popping up several times on the shoulder and always added metres. 7