Dragons have to settle for second at Premiership Rugby 7s

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THE NEWPORT Gwent Dragons trophy cabinet remains empty after they were denied by Gloucester in the final of the Premiership Rugby 7s.

The Rodney Parade region came close to winning the first piece of silverware since their 2003 inception after a terrific display at the Twickenham Stoop.

However, they were unable to add Gloucester to the scalps of Newcastle and Harlequins and had to be content with runners-up medals on a soggy night in London.

It was an admirable effort in the first year of Welsh involvement but they came up just short against the impressive Cherry and Whites, who retained the title that they won at the Rec last summer.

Gloucester started the final slickly in the torrential rain and got their noses 7-0 in front when Henry Purdy raced under the sticks.

And it was 12-0 when Steph Reynolds, born in Newport and raised in Chepstow, raced over down the right flank.

Cross Keys speedster Jonny Lewis – whose late winner earned a place in the final – came close to narrowing the gap with the final play but the slippery ball escaped from his grasp as he attempted to stretch over the whitewash.

But the man from Pandy Park did give the Dragons a chance when he scorched over from Lewis Hudd's pass with 90 seconds remaining.

Alas, time was not the Welsh region's friend and they were unable to sneak over for a leveller to cap a fine effort in awful conditions at the Stoop.

The Dragons had made three enforced changes to the side that went through the Welsh qualifier unbeaten with Newport winger Elliot Frewen ruled out because of a thumb injury sustained in Cardiff, Wales Under-20s prospect James Benjamin absent because of a shoulder injury and his fellow back row forward Harri Keddie away on Wales Under-18s duty.

Their spots went to Cross Keys wing/centre James Cordy-Redden, Academy fly-half Angus O'Brien and former Ospreys speedster Luke Morgan, who headed to the tournament fresh from the Commonwealth Games.

He was joined by fellow Wales sevens internationals Sam Cross, Rhys Jones and Matthew Pewtner in a strong-looking side.

That experience looked likely to count for nothing when they trailed Newcastle 10-0 at the break in the quarter-final courtesy of tries by Tom Wilson and Ben Morris, the second scored while the Falcons were down to six men with Brian Tuilagi in the sin bin.

But, with the rain pouring down, they turned it around thanks to skipper Cross' score and a super counter-attack effort that was finished off by O'Brien.

The first was converted by Rhys Jones, whose kick-offs were immaculate, and the Dragons made it through to the last four thanks to the 12-10 success.

That was a narrow win but the last-four encounter with Harlequins was even more tense.

It seemed that the hosts were marching into the final when they inched 15-12 ahead in the closing stages thanks to a try by the livewire Gavin Dampies.

But with time gone Cross Keys speedster Jonny Lewis raced over from Cross' pass to prompt a mass exodus of the home faithful.

The Dragons led 7-5 at the break thanks to the impressive Morgan scorching his man down the left for a try that Rhys Jones converted and a clanger by ref JP Doyle, who bafflingly denied the Quins a try when he deemed it wasn't grounded over the line.

The hosts made it 10-7 through Jordan Burns only for the former Ospreys man to score his second by racing over from Rhys Jones' delightful pass out left.

Then came the late drama that was to end with wild Dragons celebrations on the touchline after they earned their shot at the Cherry and Whites.

Dragons squad: Sam Cross (captain), Angus O'Brien, Dorian Jones, Owen Davies, Jonny Lewis, Luke Morgan, Matthew Pewtner, Rhys Jones, James Thomas, James Cordy-Redden, Lewis Hudd, Ollie Griffiths.

Dragons' results: quarter-final – beat Newcastle 12-10 (tries – Cross and O'Brien; conversion – R Jones); semi-final – beat Harlequins 19-15 (tries – Morgan 2, Lewis; conversions – R Jones 2); final – lost to Gloucester 12-5 (try – Lewis)

Results: quarter-finals – Cardiff Blues 19 Leicester 14, Gloucester 50 Northampton 5, Harlequins 26 London Irish 10, Newport Gwent Dragons 12 Newcastle 10; semi-finals – Gloucester 24 Cardiff Blues 14, Harlequins 15 Newport Gwent Dragons 19; final – Gloucester 12 Newport Gwent Dragons 5

Plate semi-finals – Leicester 21 Northampton 12, London Irish 12 Newcastle 5; final – Leicester 17 London Irish 0

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