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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 21:18 GMT
Dragons 16-28 Scarlets
CELTIC LEAGUE
Scarlets centre Dafydd James celebrates his try
Dragons: (13) 16:
Tries: Oakley.
Cons: Sweeney.
Pens: Sweeney 3.
Scarlets: (10) 28:
Tries: D Jones, James, Dunlea.
Cons: Hercus 2.
Pens: Hercus 3.
Att: 5,723
Llanelli Scarlets moved up to fifth in the Celtic League table with a 28-16 win away at Newport-Gwent Dragons.

The margin of victory should have been more comfortable but Mike Hercus missed five kicks, although the USA fly-half did finish with 13 points on the night.

Rhys Oakley's excellent try and Ceri Sweeney's boot had kept the Dragons in reach, but the Scarlets had control.

Flanker Dafydd Jones barged over before centre Dafydd James ended a fine move, with Craig Dunlea adding a third try.

Sweeney stroked a comfortable penalty to give the Dragons an early lead at Rodney Parade, but the home side was finding it hard going up front.

The Scarlets' greater pack power was demonstrated when stand-in skipper James, taking over in Simon Easterby's injury absence, opted to go for a five-metre lineout rather than kick for points.

A simple catch and drive found a worrying lack of resistance from the Dragons' point of view, allowing Wales flanker Jones easy passage across the try line, with Hercus adding the extras.

Jones had only just arrived on the pitch as a blood replacement for Gavin Thomas, and thoroughly enjoyed his first return to action since injuring an ankle against Fiji in November.

There was also the welcome sight of Nathan Brew back in a Dragons shirt, the wing having sat out the last nine months after a groin operation and an ankle injury.

I love scoring and was delighted with the way the boys dug deep
Scarlets captain Dafydd James

If it was a night for returning players, it was taking a toll on the match officials.

Referee Nigel Whitehouse was forced to pull out with an niggle just before kick-off, then his replacement Neil Ballard lasted just 30 minutes before tweaking a hamstring and handing over the whistle to James Jones.

Ballard's last act was to signal a try for the home side after flanker Oakley picked a great line, then threw in a nifty side-step to outfox Garan Evans and score under the posts.

Sweeney's simple conversion gave the Dragons a surprising 13-7 lead given the lack of possession they had been living on, but two Hercus penalties either side of half-time drew the Scarlets level.

Some sloppiness from the restart allowed Sweeney to slot his third penalty of the night, while in contrast opposing fly-half Hercus was wide with his next effort.

But the USA star made amends as the Scarlets fashioned the best try of the match, Hercus holding his pass to find Mark Jones coming in off the blindside wing.

Jones drew the last Dragons defender to send skipper James racing in under the posts, Hercus capping things with the conversion and then adding a penalty soon after.

Another penalty miss from Hercus - his fourth failure of the night - could have cost the Scarlets dear, but a third try with two minutes remaining made the result safe.

New recruit Dunlea, a New Zealand prop who has played for the Borders in Scotland, made an immediate impact on debut by barging over for an unconverted try.


  • Scarlets captain Dafydd James:
    "My try came at a stage in the game when the result could have gone either way, but we managed to get in under the posts.

    "It lifted the tempo and the intensity of our game, I love scoring and was delighted with the way the boys dug deep.

    "We had a bad performance last week in the Heineken Cup loss at Wasps and knew we had to regroup, it was always going to be difficult but we produced a win."


    Dragons: Kevin Morgan; Gareth Chapman, Hal Luscombe, Jon Bryant, Nathan Brew; Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Cooper; Adam Black, Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Luke Charteris, Rhys Oakley, Jamie Ringer, Michael Owen (capt).
    Replacements: Craig Warlow for Bryant (50), David Maddocks for Black (73), Gethin Robinson for R. Thomas (73), Peter Sidoli for Hall (40), Jason Forster for Oakley (50). Not Used: Richard Fussell, Gareth Baber.

    Scarlets: Garan Evans; Mark Jones, Dafydd James (capt), Regan King, Tal Selley; Mike Hercus, Dwayne Peel; Dorian Williams, Matthew Rees, Martyn Madden, Inoke Afeaki, Chris Wyatt, Jon Mills, Gavin Thomas, Alix Popham.
    Replacements: Craig Dunlea for Madden (63), Vernon Cooper for Mills (61), Dafydd Jones for G. Thomas (10). Not Used: Craig Hawkins, Clive Stuart-Smith, Gareth Bowen, Barry Davies.

    Referee: Neil Ballard (WRU).




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    SEE ALSO
    BBC Wales Sport coverage
    18 Sep 05 |  Wales


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