Dan Robson stars as Wasps break losing streak with battling win over Dragons | Sport

Dan Robson is a bit part player for England but he is indispensable to Wasps, whose losing streak may have been extended to three matches without him. It was the scrum-half who provided the rare moments of inspiration for Wasps in a grinding contest that nearly fell victim to Covid-19.

The Dragons were forced to make six changes to their 23 after two of their contingent tested positive on Friday. The organisers were told that night but informed Wasps less than four hours before the kick-off, after deciding the game could go ahead while the six players isolated.

“I found it strange we were informed about this as late as 2pm,” said Wasps’ head coach, Lee Blackett. “We discussed it with our medical staff and then spoke to the players. We gave them the option of withdrawing, but they were happy to play.”

Despite the late reshuffle, the Dragons frustrated last season’s beaten Premiership finalists, although they did not offer enough in attack to swing a hard-fought contest their way and were ultimately undone upfront.

Llanelli Scarlets edged an exciting 23-19 Pool A victory against Bath at the Rec thanks to a late try from Kieran Hardy and the boot, plus the defensive heroics, of Leigh Halfpenny. 

The scrum-half Gareth Davies crossed for the visitors early on before Bath assumed control, with Ruaridh McConnochie scoring a try and Ben Spencer adding points from the kicking tee. 

After they led 14-10 at the break, Will Stuart scored Bath’s second try, but the Scarlets prop Rob Evans burst through a gap and off-loaded to Hardy and when Halfpenny converted, the visitors led by a point deep into the final quarter. 

At the other end, some stunning defensive work by Halfpenny denied Bath a winning try as they massed bodies on the line. 

Also in Pool A, Sale started life without Steve Diamond, the long-serving coach who left this week, with a 26-14 defeat at the three-times European champions Toulon

Gabin Villière and the Argentinian winger Ramiro Moyano scored the tries for the French club while their fly-half Louis Carbonel kicked 16 points. 

Marland Yarde and James Phillips crossed for late scores for the Sharks with Faf de Klerk coming off the replacements bench to set up the Phillips score, but Toulon closed out their victory to sit third in Pool A. 

Leinster top Pool A thanks to a 35-14 bonus-point success in Montpellier. 

The Irish province ran in five tries in all with Josh van der Flier, Ciarán Frawley and Dave Kearney all registering in the first half. 

Benoît Paillaugue kicked three penalties for the home team and Gabriel N’Gandebe scored their only try while Dan Leavy and Jimmy O’Brien added further scores for Leo Cullen’s men. 

Edinburgh, meanwhile, managed to secure a losing bonus point as they fell to a 13-8 home defeat by La Rochelle in Pool A. Jules Plisson put the visitors into the lead with a penalty before Raymond Rhule’s first-half try. 

Jeremy Sinzelle added another try after half-time for Ronan O’Gara’s side, while Blair Kinghorn responded with a try for Edinburgh, and Jaco van der Walt kicked a solitary penalty.

This season’s Champions Cup format is very different to previous years: there are two pools of 12 teams with all teams playing four pool matches, two at home and two away. The fixtures determined by a tiered system.

Wasps looked to play at a high tempo, yet they struggled to create space in what became a kicking contest. But there was Robson, ever alert to opportunity, and it was his defence-splitting flat pass that created the game’s opening try for Tom Cruse. The manoeuvre caught the Dragons’ scrum-half, Rhodri Williams, in two minds, and he was similarly bewildered on the half-hour when Lima Sopoaga feigned to return a kick in his own half but ran instead, and then linked up with Josh Bassett.

The wing fooled Williams with a dummy and ran to the 22 before passing inside to Robson. That put Wasps 12-3 ahead with Sam Davies kicking one penalty and missing another in between the two tries. The Dragons were comfortable with Wasps taking the game to them through the hard-running Jack Willis and Alfie Barbeary, but far less so on the few occasions the game became unstructured.

Wasps had scored their first try as the Dragons wing Jared Rosser was trudging to the sin-bin after a no-arms tackle denied Zach Kibirige a try. Wasps lost Sopoaga to the sin-bin three minutes into the second period for another shoulder challenge, on the onrushing Josh Lewis. The Dragons exploited the advantage as passing that had been laboured all evening became crisp as Nick Tompkins, Lewis and Jonah Holmes moved the ball to Jamie Roberts on the left, where he perfectly timed his inside return to Holmes for a try.

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Davies missed a 40-metre penalty that would have reduced Wasps’ lead to a point, and the Dragons’ Covid changes cost them when Aaron Jarvis, who had been penalised twice in the first half for hinging, was sent to the sin-bin after 55 minutes. Normally Jarvis is replaced around that time, and no doubt would have been had the Wales international Leon Brown been on the bench.

Two lineouts later, Willis sealed a victory that was decorated with a bonus point seven minutes from time by Thomas Young, after another telling Robson pass. But Wasps are still striving for the fluency that took them to the Premiership final.

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