Newport Gwent Dragons drew first blood for Wales with victory over Newcastle Falcons on the opening night of the EDF Energy Cup
Newport Gwent Dragons 25, Newcastle Falcons 14
Newport Gwent Dragons drew first blood for Wales with victory over Newcastle Falcons on the opening night of the EDF Energy Cup.
Jason Tovey raced over for the winner on 75 minutes after skipper Marc Stcherbina and Tom Isaacs had put the Dragons on their way in an entertaining clash at Rodney Parade.
Newcastle threatened to over-power the Dragons when they led 14-13 early in the second half following a penalty try and wing Ollie Phillips' solo score.
But Colin Charvis stepped off the bench to steady the ship with a scoring pass as the Dragons claimed a third victory on the bounce.
The Dragons experienced a mix start, scoring on their first attack into Falcons territory through the boot of teenager Tovey, but they spent most of the opening quarter on the back foot as Newcastle's larger pack took a grip.
But the Falcons failed to make the most of their dominance and were struck by a classic counter-attack by the lively Dragons.
Tovey pounced on a lose pass to hack up field before releasing Jamie Ringer and Gareth Wyatt. Tovey got his hands on the ball again and chipped ahead a second time, this time following it up with a tackle on Newcastle's Danny Williams who lost control of the ball to gift captain-for-the-night Stcherbina a try under the posts.
Tovey converted and the Dragons, against the run of play, were clear ten points to nil.
But Jamie Ringer was shown the yellow card for dangerous play at a ruck and the Dragons were always struggling to keep the Falcons out.
They almost managed it, but seconds before Ringer returned, the sheer weight of Newcastle's pack caused the retreating Dragons front-row to collapse and referee Rob Debney awarded the penalty try. Rory Clegg converted.
However Tovey struck again with a second penalty from close to the touch line to open a six-point lead just before half time.
The Dragons were caught napping at the start of the second half as Falcons wing Ollie Phillips was rewarded for his persistence, beating Tal Selley and then Phil Dollman to the touch down. Clegg converted and Newcastle led for the first time on 43 minutes at 14-13.
Colin Charvis, the former Wales captain, entered the fray on 53 minutes to the loudest cheer of the night and the veteran back-row produced a scoring pass nine minutes later as replacement scrum-half Issacs scorched over.
Tovey converted and still had the legs to settle this entertaining encounter with the winner five minutes from time as the Dragons finished on a high to win 25-14.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.
The WRU officially unveiled the new pitch today in time for Wales to take on Australia in the first of the Dove Men Series autumn international matches this Saturday. Head Groundsman Lee Evans and colleague Craig Campbell reflect on the 15-week project and look ahead to a pitch perfect future at Millennium Stadium.