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Wasps kick off European challenge on the front foot
WASPS 38, DRAGONS 25.
WASPS avoided the mistakes of last season by taking maximum points from Newport-Gwent Dragons in their opening Amlin Challenge Cup fixture at Adams Park tonight.
They ran in four tries to take all five points from a 38-25 victory that sets them up perfectly for a decent European adventure.
However, while the end result can't be faulted, director of rugby Dai Young will still be scratching his head slightly after his team again managed only to play in fits and starts.
Twenty points came in a first-half rush that put the Dragons on their backs, but instead of going in for the kill Wasps withdrew the knife from their opponent's throats and had to spend another hour slogging it out.
After going off the boil against Worcester last weekend, it wasn't exactly what Young would have hoped for. But a win is a win and if it wasn't perfect it was at least significantly better than the 30-29 loss they suffered against the Welshman on this ground almost a year ago to the day.
And a repeat of that didn't look totally impossible early on.
Wasps can't have been caught dozing at 8.10pm in the evening, but the way they started suggested their minds might have been elsewhere as error compounded error to hand Dragons five points right off the bat.
First Wasps dropped the visitor's kick off, then Nick Robinson failed to find touch and just moments later Adam Hughes ran straight over Hugo Southwell to score in the corner.
As a wake up call though, it did the job.
Barely ten minutes later Wasps had turned 0-5 into 20-5 and the Dragons were already hanging on.
Joe Launchbury, Joe Simpson and Hugo Wentzel sent Jack Wallace over for the first try after seven minutes, Fabio Staibano crashed over for the second shortly afterwards and former RGS Wycombe boy Wallace would have had his second but for Chris Bell's pass into touch.
Robinson added ten points with the boot and, to heap misery on Dragons, full back Dan Evans was yellow carded for tripping Simpson as he chased his own kick towards the posts.
With three quarters of the game still remaining, it promised to be a long old evening for the Welshmen.
It didn't quite pan out as expected though.
Although Wasps won it with plenty to spare, the floodgates didn't open after their adrenaline surge early in the first half and instead the game degenerated into a staccato affair that did little to warm the sparse crowd.
Billy Vunipola did barrel over for Wasps' third try after 29 minutes, but they had to wait another half hour for the fourth when twinkle-toes Simpson picked his way over from close range to put the game out of Dragons' reach.
In between those scores, three more Robinson penalties negated two from Newport's Lewis Robling, while Newport also scored their second try of the night when Owen Evans reached over from the base of a scrum after 34 minutes.
All that left Wasps in charge at 38-18, meaning Jack Dixon's opportunistic score in the final minutes hardly registered.
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