Dragons secure deserved European draw
Dragons completed the South African tour with a thrilling 31-31 draw with Emirates Lions after an entertaining opening clash of the EPCR Challenge Cup at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
Jordan Williams, Rhodri Williams and Sam Davies all crossed the whitewash in a high scoring opening half of European competition – a first ever game involving a South African side.
The Men of Gwent continued to go toe-to-toe in the second period but a quickfire double from the hosts just after the interval looked to put them in the ascendancy.
Jack Dixon, though, grabbed the decisive try bonus point on the hour before both teams missed late kicks and had to settle for three points each.
Dragons made nine changes to the side that lost to Stormers last time as they looked to start Europe on the front foot.
An early fast break down the right swing saw Sio Tomkinson kick into wide open space but Jared Rosser was just beaten to the ball by his opposite number.
Playmaker Sam Davies then saw a drop goal from halfway just drift wide right after less than a minute.
A deliberate knock on by Ashton Hewitt in midfield gave Lions the first kick at goal and Gianni Lombard slotted the penalty.
Ross Moriarty blew a hole in the Lions defence with a barnstorming run from deep, but the ball just fell forward in contact after the initial break.
The Men of Gwent hit back through a penalty from a confident looking Davies on 11 minutes before a first try.
Slick hands down the right flank saw Sean Lonsdale break through the defensive line and feed the supporting Jordan Williams on his left shoulder to power over.
Lions hit back four minutes later as the forwards rumbled up close as they retained possession before home fly half Lombard wrestled his way over.
Aggressive defence from Dragons rocked the home side back at the midpoint of the half and when Lions failed to roll away from a tackle the ball was kicked deep into the home 22.
Bradley Roberts was stopped just short and then held up as Dragons went for the line from close range before scrum half Rhodri Williams spotted space down the shortside to dive over.
The intervention of the TMO saw a penalty for a high tackle give Lions the chance to kick to the corner and they duly drove over with replacement prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye the scorer.
The game continued to flow from end to end with Dragons twice turning down penalties to go for the corner.
The call paid dividends as the forwards pummelled forward before half backs Williams and Davies combined for the third away try.
One late push from the hosts before the break saw them go to the corner, after Dragons were penalised for dragging down a driving maul.
But superb defence from the hugely impressive Harri Keddie held them out and won a key penalty for a 24-17 lead at the break.
Lions made changes at the break and looked to show their teeth as they counter rucked to force field position before home wing Edwill van der Merwe went over.
The wing then completed a quickfire double as he finished off a smart dummy and break from Jaco Kriel.
Dragons were struggling to hit the heights of the opening period as Lions bossed territory and cut out the errors to keep control of the ball.
But a break from Sam Davies sparked a flying counter and the ball went through the hands before Rhodri Williams made a dart for the line and Dixon finished.
Hewitt made big yards from deep as he stepped inside a tackler before home prop JP Smith was yellow carded for a needless trip.
Dragons came close again as a huge pass from Rhodri Williams found Tomkinson on the right wing, but he lost the ball as he looked to dive in the corner under pressure.
Hooker Brodie Coghlan made his debut in the final ten minutes as Lions looked to manage the yellow card.
Tomkinson produce a moment of class with a 50:22 before Van der Merwe broke from deep but a super breakdown win by Will Reed secured possession back.
Late drama saw Davies step into the pocket but miss a drop goal attempt wide left.
Hendrikse then stepped up with a monster kick of his own but he saw it drift left to leave the scores level.
04m Lombard p 3-0
11m Davies p 3-3
12m J. Williams t Davies c 3-10
16m Lombard t Lombard c 10-10
23m R. Williams t Davies c 10-17
31m Ntlabakanye t Lombard c 17-17
36m Davies t Davies c 17-24
44m Van der Merwe t Hendrikse c 24-24
48m Van der Merwe t Hendrikse c 31-24
59m Dixon t Davies c 31-31
Emirates Lions: Andries Coetzee, Rabz Maxwane, Sango Xamlashe, Zander du Plessis, Edwill van der Merwe, Gianni Lombard, André Warner; Sti Sithole, PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Ruben Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel, Jaco Kriel, Darrian Landsberg, Emmanuel Tshituka.
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, JP Smith, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Ruan Venter, Sangweni Sibusiso, Sanele Nohamba, Jordan Hendrikse, Rynhardt Jonker
Dragons RFC: Jordan Williams, Jared Rosser (Hughes 40), Sio Tomkinson, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt (Reed 64), Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Jones 70); Rhodri Jones (Evans 50), Bradley Roberts (Coghlan 69), Chris Coleman (Fairbrother 72), Joe Davies (Wainwright 50), Matthew Screech, Sean Lonsdale, Harri Keddie (Fry 61), Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Brodie Coghlan, Rob Evans, Lloyd Fairbrother, Aaron Wainwright, Ben Fry, Lewis Jones, Will Reed, Steff Hughes
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe (England)