DRAGONS EDGED OUT BY SAINTS IN CHALLENGE CUP
A brilliant second half fightback from Northampton Saints saw them snatch a 39-43 victory over Dragons in an enthralling encounter at Rodney Parade.
Tries from Matthew Screech, Leon Brown, Sam Davies and a brace from Ashton Hewitt - plus 14 points from the boot of Davies - wasn’t quite enough as the Dragons fell to a narrow last 16 defeat in the European Challenge Cup.
Northampton managed tries from Ollie Sleightholme, Alex Mitchell, Teimana Harrison, Tom Collins and a brace from Taqele Naiyaravoro, with fly half James Grayson kicking 13 points as the English Premiership side reach the quarter-finals.
The Saints will now face the winner of Harlequins or Ulster next weekend as they bid to reach the last four in Europe.
While the Dragons will head back to the drawing board and prepare for their Rainbow Cup campaign, which begins against the Scarlets at Rodney Parade on the weekend commencing 23rd of April.
It was a strong start for the home side as they raced into a ten point lead thanks five points from the boot of Davies and a try from Hewitt.
A beautiful grubber kick through from centre Jamie Roberts allowed Hewitt to score an easy try in the corner before Davies add the extras.
Northampton Saints fly half James Grayson got his side onto the scoreboard with an easy penalty in front of the sticks.
The Dragons responded instantly, with both sides managing to do that throughout the contest, as Screech powered his way over continuing his fine try scoring form in recent weeks. Davies added the conversion and the Dragons led 17-3 after half an hour.
The home side further extended their lead when winger Hewitt scored his second of the contest after a dominant Dragons pack put the backs on the front foot. Unfortunately, Hewitt injured himself in the process of scoring and had to be replaced.
Dangerous Saints back Naiyaravoro scored his first try just before half time to give his side a glimmer of hope heading into the break. His quick thinking allowed him to pick the ball up from the ruck and walk in untouched.
After Grayson added the extras the Dragons headed into half time with a 22-10 lead, with Director of Rugby Dean Ryan being very pleased with his side’s performance in the first 40.
It was the Saints who got the perfect start to an end to end second half as Sleightholme, who scored four tries last weekend, finished off a brilliant Saints counter-attacking try and Grayson narrowed the score to five points.
Some Saints indiscipline followed which saw both JJ Tonks and Alex Coles sent to the sin bin and the away side down to 13 men.
The five-point gap didn’t last long as Dragons fly half Davies made the extra men count and quickly scored ten points of his own with a penalty quickly followed by a well finished try after side-stepping and stretching his way over, he then converted his own score to give the home side a 32-17 lead with half hour to go.
But the scoring was far from done with the Saints next to crash over the whitewash. Scrum half Alex Mitchell showing his pace and finishing a fantastic solo score in the corner despite the number disadvantage.
Replacement prop Leon Brown powered his way over on the hour mark to once again extend the Dragons lead and after Davies added the two points, the home side held a 15 point advantage with less than 20 minutes to go.
But it wasn’t enough for Dean Ryan’s men as the Saints scored three unanswered tries in the last quarter to pinch the game from under the noses of Dragons.
It was captain Teimana Harrison who scored first after some brilliant Saints hands, sending him over in the corner.
Dragons hooker Elliot Dee was then sent to the sin bin for the final ten minutes of the game after giving away a penalty at the breakdown on his own try line.
The Saints made the extra man count quite quickly with Naiyaravoro scoring his second after Saints took advantage of an overlap out wide. Grayson added the conversion and narrowed the score to just three points with five minutes to go.
And it was the away side who manged to take the spoils in a thrilling encounter at Rodney Parade, scoring a brilliant try from their own 22m.
Replacement scrum half Henry Taylor made the break before he kicked the ball on, and fellow replacement Tom Collins managed to score and seal the Saints passage into the quarter finals of the European Challenge Cup.
07m Davies p 3-0
12m Hewitt t Davies c 10-0
25m Grayson p 10-3
27m Screech t Davies c 17-3
34m Hewitt t 22-3
37m Naiyaravoro t Grayson c 22-10
41m Sleightholme t Grayson c 22-17
44m Davies p 25-17
51m Davies t Davies c 32-17
55m Mitchell t Grayson c 32-24
61m Brown t Davies c 39-24
63m Harrison t 39-29
74m Naiyaravoro t Grayson c 39-36
75m Collins t Grayson c 39-43
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Jonah Holmes, Aneurin Owen, Jamie Roberts (T. Davies 78), Ashton Hewitt (Tompkins 35), Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Bertranou 58), Greg Bateman (Reynolds 68), Elliot Dee, Lloyd Fairbrother (Brown 58), Joe Davies (Carter 56), Matthew Screech, Aaron Wainwright, Harrison Keddie (Baker 68), Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Taylor Davies, Josh Reynolds, Leon Brown, Ben Carter, Dan Baker, Gonzalo Bertranou, Evan Lloyd, Nick Tompkins
Northampton Saints: Harry Mallinder, Ollie Sleightholme, Fraser Dingwall, Rory Hutchinson, Taqele Naiyaravoro, James Grayson, Alex Mitchell, Nick Auterac, Mikey Haywood, Ehren Painter, Alex Moon, Alex Coles, JJ Tonks, Shaun Adendorff, Teimana Harrison
Replacements: James Fish, Alex Waller, Oisín Heffernan, Lewis Bean, Sam Matavesi, Henry Taylor, Ahsee Tuala, Tom Collins