Wasps stand firm in Cardiff
Heineken Cup dream all but over for Dragons
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 12/12/10 3:34pm
Jacobs scores in Wasps' win
Wasps kept up the pressure on Toulouse at the top of Pool Six with a 23-16 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.
The change of venue - their Rodney Parade ground was frozen - did little to improve the Dragons' fortunes as they slumped to their third straight Heineken Cup defeat.
The Welshmen, who remain at the bottom of the group with a solitary point, put up a spirited fight in the latter stages that sparked some frantic defence from Wasps.
Twice they were denied by the tv official in the last quarter and they went agonisingly close on a number of other occasions.
But they were unable break down a resolute Wasps defence and were still planted inches from the visitors' line when the referee called time.
Jason Tovey set the Dragons off to a perfect start when he made it 3-0 with a well-struck penalty inside the first minute.
Tthe young fly-half was involved again six minutes later in Dragons' first try, his slick offload sending skipper Ashley Smith over in the right corner.
Smith had initially spurned a penalty kick wide on the left in favour of a scrum just yards from the Wasps line.
And when the ball found its way into the back line it was Tovey's quick hands that put Smith in the clear to sprint down the touchline for the score. Tovey added the extras to put the hosts into a 10-0 lead.
Almost immediately Wasps had an opportunity to close the gap, but Dave Walder saw his long-range penalty attempt fall short.
The fly-half was bang on target on 18 minutes though, making it 10-7 with a penalty straight down the middle.
Wasps hit their opponents again on 23 minutes, Ben Jacobs finishing off a fantastic move that started way back in his own 22.
Simon Shaw was the catalyst as he ran the ball out of the danger zone before delivering a neat pass to Jacobs on the left.
The centre tore down the touchline and into the Dragons' 22, slipping the ball inside to the supporting David Lemi as the hosts desperately scrambled back.
Lemi was brought down just yards from the line but when the ball was spread wide from the breakdown Jacobs was on hand to collect and dab down.
Walder's conversion brought the scores level at 10 apiece, but on 23 minutes Tovey edged the Welshmen back in front with a well-struck penalty.
Three minutes later he stretched the lead to six points with a composed drop goal but, with six minutes to go to the break, Walder closed the gap again with a three pointer from midway between the posts and the left touchline.
Four minutes later though he failed to level the scores, dragging another penalty attempt wide of the posts to leave Newport with a slender lead at half-time.
Wasps began the second half brightly and on 46 minutes Steve Kefu and Lemi combined in sparkling fashion to score the visitors' second.
The Aussie centre made good ground up the left after selling the Newport defence a neat dummy.
But it was his exquisite underarm flick out to Lemi that made the difference as the Samoan accelerated away to the line for a magnificent try.
Walder added the extras from wide on the left to make it 16-18 and put Wasps into the lead for the first time.
Walder's kick had been delayed while Tovey was helped off with what looked like an injury to his leg. Minutes later his replacement Matthew Jones saw his first penalty attempt drift wide.
Wasps were continunig to grow in composure and on 55 minutes winger Tom Varndell crashed over for their third try.
Walder spread the ball left from the bearkdown inside the Newport 22 and Varndell wrong-footed the Dragons defence before barging in from close range.
The fly-half missed the conversion and two minutes later his opposite number, Jones, missed his second leaving the score on 23-16 to the Londoners.
The Dragons started to up the tempo as the game entered the final quarter and on 62 minutes the pressure looked to have paid off when they almost drove over.
But the television official said 'no try' and Wasps were able to clear their lines when they won turnover ball after the resulting scrum.
The hosts continued to hammer away at the try-line but could not find a way through and, as the clock hit 73 minutes, Adam Hughes went agonisingly close when he dived in at the right corner.
But again the Welsh outfit was denied by the tv official, who adjudged the winger to have been barged out of play as he touched down.
No matter what they threw at their guests the Dragons could not get through and the result they so desperately needed in the competition slipped away.