Williams brace in bonus point win
Full back Jordan Williams marked his return to Rodney Parade with a scintillating try double as Dragons secured a 26-18 try bonus win over Zebre in the Guinness PRO14.
Williams was back on home soil after missing a huge chunk of last season through injury and lit up the encounter with two superb finishes.
The fleet-footed number 15 danced over for the opening score before man-of-the-match Jamie Roberts scored his first try for the region.
Hooker Elliot Dee added another before Zebre hit back and took advantage of errors by the home side to score 10 points when down to 14 men.
However, Williams grabbed his second of the night to secure the bonus point and a first vicory of the season for Dean Ryan’s men.
A Dee intercept sparked an early attack from halfway, but Zebre quickly spanned out across the field to try and reduce any defensive mistakes.
Quick hands then almost opened up space for fit-again Jordan Williams, but the final pass in midfield just failed to find the elusive runner.
However, the full back did not have to wait long as, when he was given a one-on-one, he danced past the final tackler to score after a huge carry from Roberts had splintered the away defence.
Zebre, who featured ten Italian internationals in their line-up, looked to mount an immediate response with Canna’s chip collected by Mbanda and only scramble defence halted the Italians.
Roberts was really busy and causing huge issues with monster carries into contact while Sam Davies pinned Zebre back with a great kick against the grain with Tompkins in hot pursuit.
A superb training ground move saw Tompkins step into the inside centre role from a lineout and fire a fine flat pass to Jordan Williams who cut clear and, after being hauled up short, the ball found Roberts who crashed over.
Canna slotted a simple three points to get Zebre on the board before Dragons struck just before the break.
A Ross Moriarty burst caused issues and, with a penalty secured, the resulting five-metre lineout saw the pack swarm and Dee get muscled over, with the TMO confirming the score.
Zebre lost Mattia Bellini to the sin bin for hands on the floor and Dragons looked set to grab the try bonus in the dying seconds of the half.
But amazingly it was instead the Italians who struck on the stroke of half-time as a fumble in midfield was hacked forward and Mori slid over for the try totally against the run of play.
Canna rubbed salt into the wound after the break as two penalties marched them up field and the Italian international kicked a long-range penalty.
The home side regained composure and struck down the right with Roberts the architect as he rode a tackle and popped a pass for Williams to score his second and secure the try bonus.
Greg Bateman made his debut on 50 minutes as Dragons looked to freshen up front with Richard Hibbard also introduced.
Davies slotted three points, after a massive scrum penalty, to move to 1,000 points in professional rugby. Eight minutes later he slotted another three to go past 750 points in the Guinness PRO14.
Zebre, though, had the final word as a mistake from the Dragons on the restart allowed the Italians to camp on the line before Bisegni crashed over.
11m J. Williams t 5-0
24m Roberts t 10-0
31m Canna p 10-3
35m Dee 15-3
40m Mori t Canna c 15-10
43m Canna p 15-13
50m J. Williams t 20-13
66m Davies p 23-13
74m Davies p 26-13
78m Bisegni t 26-18
Dragons: Jordan Williams; Jonah Holmes, Nick Tompkins, Jamie Roberts, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris (Bateman 50), Elliot Dee (Hibbard 61), Leon Brown (Jarvis 70), Joe Davies, Matthew Screech (Maksymiw 70), Harri Keddie (Fry 70), Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Greg Bateman, Aaron Jarvis, Joe Maksymiw, Ben Fry, Tavis Knoyle, Josh Lewis, Adam Warren
Zebre: Jacopo Trulla; Junior Laloifi, Giulio Bisegni, Federico Mori, Mattia Bellini, Carlo Canna (Rizzi 70), Guglielmo Palazzani (Casilio 40); Daniele Rimpelli (Fischetti 40), Marco Manfredi (Ceciliani 55 (Manfredi 70), Eduardo Bello (Zilocchi 49), Leonard Krumov, Ian Nagle, Maxime Mbandà (Kearney 53), Johan Meyer, David Sisi (Masselli 72)
Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Danilo Fischetti, Giosuè Zilocchi, Cristian Stoian, Mick Kearney, Nicolò Casilio, Antonio Rizzi, Lorenzo Masselli
Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)