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Dragons 31-26 Leinster

Centre Phil Dollman scored the pick of the Dragons' tries
Centre Phil Dollman scored the pick of the Dragons' tries
Dragons (24) 31
Tries: S Jones, W Evans, Gustafson, Dollman, Black
Cons: Tovey 2, Sweeney

Leinster (15) 26
Tries: Berne 2, Dempsey
Con: Sexton
Pens: Sexton 3

Newport Gwent Dragons regained some pride with a hard-fought win over champions Leinster in the last round of this season's Magners League.

Hooker Steve Jones broke the Irish line within three minutes, with Wayne Evans, Hugh Gustafson and Phil Dollman all swiftly following for a bonus point.

Leinster hit back through Michael Berne and Girvan Dempsey before the break.

But a fifth Dragons try through Adam Black proved just enough despite Berne crossing again to spark a tense finale.

When these two sides met six days ago in Dublin the Dragons were blown away, as Leinster sealed the title with a 41-8 victory.

Interview: Dragons captain Colin Charvis

Although it was a much-changed Leinster side that took the field at Rodney Parade, the champions cannot have expected to be four tries down within 20 minutes.

It took the Dragons just three minutes to break through, with Jason Tovey's chip gathered by Rhodri Gomer-Davies, who in turn fed hooker Jones to score.

Tovey converted and the rookie fly-half was soon in a position to release his backs once again.

Jonathan Sexton was just a fraction too eager as Leinster came up in defence, and with the fly-half out of alignment Dollman sniffed a gap.

The centre threw in a set of brilliant side-steps and sent an overhead pass into the arms of Evans for the Dragons' second try, this time unconverted.

The home side's pack then stepped up to produce another five points as a line-out and drive muscled over prop Gustafson.

Sexton struck a penalty to get Leinster on the scoreboard, but the Dragons duly collected a bonus point as their fourth try arrived.

Tovey's half-break was taken on by Gareth Wyatt - in off his wing - to give Dollman space to reach the line, and Tovey's conversion made it 24-3.

Stung into action, the Leinster pack thundered into the Welsh half with a series of drives that sucked in the defenders.

606: DEBATE

A swift release from a ruck gave Berne acres of space on the right and the centre was able to canter over, with Sexton converting.

Leinster made the numbers count again on the half-hour mark, this time a slick backs move going left allowing Dempsey to squeeze in at the corner after good work from Shane Horgan.

Tovey had a penalty chance to give the Dragons the last say in the half, but his miss meant they had to settle for a 24-15 lead at the break.

A long-range penalty from Sexton 10 minutes after the restart brought Leinster back to within a converted try.

The Dragons responded magnificently, with veteran back-row Colin Charvis - possibly in his last match for the region - to the fore in a man-of-the-match performance.

James Harris was just held short of the Leinster line but a second surge saw prop Black force his way through.

Interview: Retiring Dragons manager Jim McCreedy

Ceri Sweeney, on at fly-half for Tovey, added the extras in his last match for the Dragons before joining the Cardiff Blues next season.

Adam Jones earned a spell in the sin-bin for slowing Leinster ball and the visitors again worked the gaps to earn Berne his second try on 69 minutes.

But crucially Sexton missed the conversion, leaving Leinster needing two scores if they were to sneak the win.

In the final minute Harris became the second Dragon to be yellow-carded and Sexton struck the resulting penalty.

Leinster had no choice but to keep the ball alive as they searched for a winning try and the Dragons' hearts were in their mouths as Brian O'Driscoll almost broke through.

But the Dragons held out to earn a heartening win and send team manager Jim McCreedy into retirement after 40 years of service at Rodney Parade.


Dragons: Kevin Morgan; Gareth Wyatt, Rhodri Gomer-Davies, Phillip Dollman, Richard Fussell; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Steve Jones, Patrick Palmer, Andy Hall, Luke Charteris, Colin Charvis (capt), James Harris, Joe Bearman.
Replacements: Ben Daly for S. Jones (64), Adam Black for Palmer (35), Adam Jones for Charteris (54), Lewis Evans for Bearman (40), Paul Emerick for Dollman (56), Ceri Sweeney for Tovey (60), Alex Walker for W. Evans (60).

Leinster: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Michael Berne, Gary Brown; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Keane; Cian Healy, Brian Blaney, Stephen Knoop, Trevor Hogan, Devin Toner, Cameron Jowitt, Kevin McLaughlin, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements: Bernard Jackman for Blaney (50), Ronan McCormack for Healy (50), Malcolm O'Kelly for Toner (50), Richie Leyden for Jowitt (56), Chris Whitaker for Knoop (18), Christian Warner for Keane (65), Juan Gomez for Berne (65).

Att: 5,112

Referee: Colin Stanley (Ireland).




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