A MOMENT of madness from Sam Betty cost Worcester Warriors dear in a 22-7 defeat at Newport Gwent Dragons in the European Challenge Cup tonight.

The experienced flanker was red-carded for a punch in the first half as Warriors endured a tough evening at Rodney Parade.

A maiden try from Connor Braid gave Warriors a bright opening but they were second best at the breakdown and struggled at the scrum.

The defeat leaves Warriors fighting for their European survival in Pool Three.

It wasn’t the confidence booster Warriors had wanted ahead of their crucial Aviva Premiership relegation battle at Bristol on Boxing Day.

However, Warriors made a dream start and took the lead inside 90 seconds.

Dragons made a hash of their first line-out on halfway and Braid booted the loose ball downfield.

The Canadian fly-half gave chase, hacked the ball over the try line and won the foot race with Tom Prydie to touch down for his maiden Warriors try.

Braid also slotted the conversion to put Warriors 7-0 ahead.

But Dragons hit back strongly and a surging break down the left from Rhys Jones split open Warriors’ defence.

They recycled the ball quickly and scrum-half Tavis Knoyle dived over from close range with Angus O’Brien adding the conversion to level the match after eight minutes.

Warriors were reduced to 14 men in the 15th minute.

Betty appeared to throw a punch at Nick Crosswell and, after an ugly melee, the Warriors flanker was shown a red card by referee David Wilkinson.

O’Brien missed the resulting shot at the posts from 22 metres.

Warriors’ forwards responded positively after winning a penalty at the breakdown and Dragons’ flanker Ollie Griffiths was yellow-carded for pulling down a driving maul.

Strong ball-carrying from Will Spencer and Marco Mama was repelled by a strong Dragons rearguard before Christian Scotland-Williamson spilled the ball eight metres out.

In contrast to last weekend’s match at Sixways, Dragons were bossing the scrums.

O’Brien slotted a penalty after a Warriors set-piece indiscretion to nudge the hosts 10-7 in front after 25 minutes.

Warriors’ scrum, with Ben Howard dropping into the back row, came under increasing pressure from the fired-up Welsh region as the first half progressed.

Dragons finished the opening 40 minutes on the front foot and O’Brien was off target with a drop goal attempt in the last play of the first period.

Warriors’ forwards enjoyed a spell of possession at the beginning of the second half but struggled to make headway in a scrappy period of play.

The impressive Spencer and Scotland-Williamson got through plenty of close-quarter work before Dragons struck an important blow in the 51st minute.

Replacement Tyler Morgan spotted a gap in Warriors’ backline and surged through to grab the hosts’ second try.

O’Brien missed the conversion but Dragons led 15-7.

And with Dragons gaining the upper hand at the breakdown they notched a third soon afterwards.

After kicking a penalty to the corner, the home forwards drove to the line and prop Sam Hobbs crashed over.

O’Brien added the conversion to put Dragons 22-7 ahead.

It almost got worse for Warriors in the 62nd minute but Adam Warren had a try chalked off after a knock-on.

With Dragons in control, Warren smashed towards the line but spilled the ball as he reached to touch it down through a crowd of bodies.

Warriors: Adams; Howard, Stelling, Mills, Hammond; Braid, De Cothi; Bower (Appiah 66), Singleton (Williams 66), Daniels (Schonert 66), Spencer (Kitchener 63), Scotland-Williamson (Hewitt 66), Betty, Mama (Taylor 61), Cox (Ripper-Smith 76). Replacement not used: Shillcock.

Attendance: 4.096.