Newport Gwent Dragons 26 – 30 Newcastle Falcons

Friday 24 October 2014 Written by: Adam

Character and desire ensured Newcastle Falcons ended October unbeaten, Friday’s 30-26 victory at Newport Gwent Dragons leaving them on top of their European Rugby Challenge Cup group.

Lee Smith’s penalty from just inside the Dragons’ half built a crucial four-point buffer going into a frantic climax, in which his side defended their lives.

Flying into contact, keeping a stout defensive line and retaining the composure to close the game out, a famous win on Welsh soil was due reward for a performance which showed the future of the club is in safe hands.

With youth to the fore the Falcons rebounded from a 20-13 half-time deficit, matching the Dragons’ three tries but crucially slotting all their goals.

Rory Clegg hit a perfect five from five on the night, Smith pulling the driver out of the bag to send over the killer penalty just after the hour mark.

Centre pairing Tom Penny and Chris Harris were once again stand-outs with hard midfield running and defensive graft, Andy Saull everywhere in the back-row while Sean Robinson and Will Witty flew around at lock.

Knee injuries to Will Welch and Scott MacLeod were the only downers on a night when Newcastle demonstrated all that is good about their game, early pressure setting the stage for Clegg’s first penalty from out on the left.

Matthew Pewtner’s try had the home side in front after Richie Rees found the winger for a score in the right corner, Angus O’Brien’s penalty adding to the tally.

But this Falcons group are made of stern stuff, as demonstrated by the chargedown and chase which saw Smith scoring in the right corner when his pressurising of an attempted clearance kick paid dividends.

Clegg smashed over the touchline conversion, but it was the Dragons who ended the half on a high when Wales No 8 Taulupe Faletau was driven over for their second try.

Centre Ashley Smith ensured a seven-point interval lead with a well-taken try in the left corner, Clegg having slotted an earlier penalty in an end-to-end exchange.

But it was Newcastle who showed the greater shape after the interval, Mark Wilson poaching their second try on 42 minutes when a dominant scrum and Dan Temm’s line-break allowed the Cumbrian to profit from a supporting run.

Clegg was again on target with the extras to draw level, his side going into a well-deserved lead on 47 minutes when replacement lock Will Witty scored his second try in as many appearances.

Profiting from an unforced error as the Dragons knocked on inside their own 22, the visitors were forced to battle on with 14 men when Alex Tait found his way to the sin bin.

A pair of Tom Prydie penalties kept the home side in with a sniff as the crowd of 6,119 raised the Rodney Parade volume, but Smith’s long-range reply and a period of unshakable defence proved enough for Newcastle to hold out.

They were value for their win, and now motor into Saturday’s LV Cup game at Northampton with serious momentum behind them.

**Newcastle Falcons**
Hammersley, A Tait, T Penny, C Harris, L Smith, R Clegg, R Tipuna; R Vickers (E Fry, 51), R Hawkins, K Brookes (O Tomaszczyk, 51), S MacLeod (W Witty, 22), S Robinson, W Welch (captain, D Temm, 30), A Saull, M Wilson.
Sin-bin: A Tait (55).

Falcons scorers – Tries: L Smith, M Wilson, W Witty. Conversions: R Clegg 3. Penalties: R Clegg 2, L Smith.

**Newport Gwent Dragons**
L Byrne (captain, A Brew, 9), M Pewtner, T Prydie, A Smith, H Amos, A O’Brien (D Jones, 29), R Rees (J Evans, 70); P Price (L Fairbrother, 53), E Dee (TR Thomas, 60), D Way (O Evans, 48), J Thomas (A Powell, 61), R Landman, L Evans, N Cudd (J Benjamin, 74), T Faletau.
Dragons scorers – Tries: M Pewtner, T Faletau, A Smith. Conversions: T Prydie. Penalties: A O’Brien, T Prydie 2.

Referee: A Ruiz (Fra). Attendance: 6,119.