Dragons edged out late on by Bears
Dragons and Bristol served up a breathless pre-season encounter as the English side produced a late surge to win an 11-try clash 45-28 in the Rodney Parade sunshine.
Angus O’Brien, Ollie Griffiths and Sean Lonsdale grabbed first half tries as the Men of Gwent impressed and deservedly took a lead into the break.
Newcomer Bradley Roberts then grabbed a fourth home try at the start of the second period for the home side. But Bristol dug deep and snatched the win wth two late tries after a night of high entertainment in Newport.
Dragons gave six new signings a starting spot – with O’Brien, Sio Tomkinson, JJ Hanrahan, Lonsdale, Roberts and Rhodri Jones all featuring from the off.
But it was Bristol who opened the scoring in the third minute as a powerful driving maul surged forward and, on the second drive, visiting hooker Bryan Byrne forced his way over. Callum Sheedy converted.
Dragons, though, hit back immediately with Tomkinson – playing his first rugby in nine months - the architect as his delayed pass freed up space down the left and O’Brien showed his pace before cutting inside to score a fine effort.
Tomkinson was impressing early on with his clever grubber collected by Lonsdale before the ball was fizzed right and John Hawkins was yellow carded for illegally slowing ball.
Dragons looked set to strike for a second time but a long-floated miss pass went over the head of Rosser when the wing looked set to stride over.
Sheedy set up a second score for the visitors - his grubber collected by wing Rich Lane – before back came the hosts once more.
More neat handling from Dyer and a direct run from Rosser, who freed cleverly freed his arms to release the evasive O’Brien, opened space.
The full back skipped up close before the forwards showed good composure to work up to the line before Griffiths duly blasted over.
Dragons looked lethal on the counter as loose ball was gobbled up in midfield and Tomkinson showed sublime handling to pick up a low pass and then dummy his way into space.
Rhodri Williams and Huw Taylor carried ball before new boy Lonsdale finished off the flowing move to a huge ovation.
Visiting centre James Williams hit back after a period of sustained pressure as Dragons took a 21-19 lead into the break.
The home side were back off and running moments into the second half as Roberts broke through, after Rosser’s burst through a gap had splintered the defence.
Both teams started to unload the benches with Rob Evans and Max Clark getting their first taste of Rodney Parade action.
Bristol looked to turn the screw and enjoyed a long spell of possession in the home half before they were rewarded as the driving maul powered over.
The visitors were enjoying territorial dominance in the final quarter and, after spirited defence held a driving lineout at bay, a sniping run from Harry Randall saw the Bears snatch the lead.
Dragons pushed for a late score to try and win the game, but two late breakaway scores from Henry Purdy put a tilted gloss on the score line for the visitors.
03m Byrne t Sheedy c 0-7
07m O’Brien t Hanrahan c 7-7
14m Lane t 7-12
23m Griffiths t Hantahan c 14-12
29m Lonsdale t Hanrahan c 21-12
38m Williams t Sheedy c 21-19
41m Roberts t Hanrahan c 28-19
61m Capon t 28-24
76m Randall t MacGinty c 28-31
79m Purdy t MacGinty c 28-38
80m Purdy t MacGinty c 28-45
Dragons: Angus O’Brien (J. Williams 40), Rio Dyer, Sio Tomkinson (Richards 69), Jack Dixon, Jared Rosser (Clark 52), JJ Hanrahan (Reed 67), Rhodri Williams (Jones 52); Rhodri Jones (Evans 52), Bradley Roberts, Chris Coleman (Fairbrother 33), Huw Taylor, Sean Lonsdale, Harri Keddie (Moa 34-40), Lennon Greggains (Moa 65), Ollie Griffiths (Nott 39)
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Lloyd Fairbrother, George Nott, Ben Moa, Lewis Jones, Will Reed, Max Clark, Jordan Williams, Josh Reynolds, James Benjamin, David Richards
Bristol Bears: Luke Morahan, Jack Bates, Joe Jenkins, James Williams, Rich Lane, Callum Sheedy, Tom Whiteley; Jake Woolmore, Bryan Byrne, Jonathan Benz-Salomon, Morgan Eames, Joe Owen, John Hawkins, Jake Heenan, Magnus Bradbury.
Replacements: Jake Kerr, Will Capon, Yann Thomas, George Kloska, Max Lahiff, Ed Holmes, Dan Thomas, Sam Lewis, Harry Randall, Andy Uren, AJ MacGinty, Henry Purdy, Ioan Lloyd. Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)