Dragons 37 Zebre 6

South Wales Argus: First half try blitz helps Dragons to thumping win First half try blitz helps Dragons to thumping win

LAST season it took until April for Newport Gwent Dragons to notch a four-try bonus point. This term it took less than one half of rugby.

The region made the perfect start to the RaboDirect Pro12 campaign by sending Zebre packing with plenty to spare at Rodney Parade.

They scored four tries and were clinical when presented with opportunities but, in stark contrast to the new Italian franchise, it was their excellent defence that did it.

In their final pre-season friendly the Dragons swarmed all over London Irish to prevent a side that scores tries for fun in the Aviva Premiership crossing their whitewash.

They repeated the trick to respond to the pressure, from inside the camp and out, that had been ramped on them all week.

Even though the Dragons managed just one Pro12 four-try bonus point last season – barely a consolation in a miserable home loss to Treviso – they knew a five-pointer would be a real statement of intent.

That was not to say they were underestimating Zebre; the hosts spent all week predicted a bruising and tight encounter.

But that was sportsman’s talk.

If the Dragons are serious about finishing above their Welsh rivals and qualifying for next year’s Heineken Cup then the Pro12 whipping boys had to be dealt with. And deal with them they did.

Not even the pre-match withdrawal of experienced scrum-half Wayne Evans with a sore back could derail the Dragons.

That meant Jon Evans was promoted from the bench to resume a half-back partnership with Steffan Jones that was first fielded by Bargoed Youth but their inexperience wasn’t exposed.

Aironi became Zebre this summer but, just like Katie Price/Jordan, their name change didn’t make them any classier.

Perhaps they had one eye on their first home encounter against Connacht but they lacked conviction on their first display.

They showed a few nice touches but they remain a side whose game is based on bulk and by and large they came to spoil, slow down and frustrate.

It was mission accomplished by them in the opening exchanges but the floodgates opened after a 10th-minute Tom Prydie penalty got the Dragons moving.

Andy Tuilagi scored the first try of the campaign when smart work by scrum-half Jonathan Evans put debutant Dan Evans in motion on halfway before the full-back calmly gave his centre a run-in.

Prydie added the extras and did the same when wing Will Harries finished off an 80-metre counter-attack, even though it started with a hint of a knock-on by captain Steve Jones.

And there was just 26 minutes on the clock when the Dragons had their third score, once again their suffocating defence doing the damage to earn a turnover inside the Italians’ 22 that enabled Steffan Jones to give Dan Evans the simplest of tries to open his account for the region.

The former Scarlets man doubled his tally with the last play of the half with another score that highlighted Zebre’s defensive fragility. The ball was simply put through the hands down the left where Evans strolled over.

It was like chalk and cheese in defence – when the Dragons’ line was breached they scrambled superbly while Zebre softly shipped points.

In fairness they tightened up after the break and if there is one disappointment from last night it is that the Dragons didn’t really put their visitors to the sword.

But that is a minor gripe on a night that yielded five points and contained plenty of promising signs.

All three debutants – Evans, Prydie and lock Ian Nimmo – added to the team and Jevon Groves had a good night as an emergency openside in the absence of injured sevens Lewis Evans and Darren Waters.

But perhaps most pleasing was the way that Andy Tuilagi and the excellent Pat Leach combined in midfield, putting in some hard hits in defence and doing things with efficiency in attack.

That combination had been broken up to give Ashley Smith game time by the time the scoreboard operators were troubled in the second half.

Prydie knocked over a 73rd-minute penalty to at least ensure the half wasn’t a scoreless one.

Things will get tougher when the Dragons take on European champions Leinster in seven days’ time but they head over to Dublin in fine fettle.

Last night was must-win and they did it in style.

Comments (15)

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9:21pm Fri 31 Aug 12

CaptainB says...

Well Done Boys, if we can make Rodney Parade a fortress and inflict pain on the visitors, a couple of wins on the road could see us back in the Hienekin Cup.
This was the ideal started for us, next week will show our metal, lets be positive and take on the Irish teams in their own back yard.
Well Done Boys, if we can make Rodney Parade a fortress and inflict pain on the visitors, a couple of wins on the road could see us back in the Hienekin Cup. This was the ideal started for us, next week will show our metal, lets be positive and take on the Irish teams in their own back yard. CaptainB

9:35pm Fri 31 Aug 12

Rugby Warrior Paulo says...

Well done guys. Leinster LOOK OUT the Dragons are back!
Well done guys. Leinster LOOK OUT the Dragons are back! Rugby Warrior Paulo

9:50pm Fri 31 Aug 12

corpardguy says...

Well done lads, important to start the season well.
All the newbies showed up well, so on to bigger and better things now.

A great defensive effort, and Tuilagi has benefitted massively from his weight loss (and so have NGD)
Well done lads, important to start the season well. All the newbies showed up well, so on to bigger and better things now. A great defensive effort, and Tuilagi has benefitted massively from his weight loss (and so have NGD) corpardguy

7:33am Sat 1 Sep 12

Dragons den says...

Pat Leach Man Of The Match !!!
Was anyone watching Dan Evans ?
Pat Leach Man Of The Match !!! Was anyone watching Dan Evans ? Dragons den

8:25am Sat 1 Sep 12

Robert Shillabeer says...

Pat Leach did no more than a few other Dragons Nimmo played very well and bossed the line out very well and could easily been the nominee, but it could only be one mom, so it was Pat Leach, no problem.
Pat Leach did no more than a few other Dragons Nimmo played very well and bossed the line out very well and could easily been the nominee, but it could only be one mom, so it was Pat Leach, no problem. Robert Shillabeer

10:29am Sat 1 Sep 12

the dork says...

GREAT
GREAT the dork

11:09am Sat 1 Sep 12

Welshman76 says...

Thought j.evans was excellent too. Hope he gets more game time! Great start.
Thought j.evans was excellent too. Hope he gets more game time! Great start. Welshman76

11:09am Sat 1 Sep 12

Welshman76 says...

Thought j.evans was excellent too. Hope he gets more game time! Great start.
Thought j.evans was excellent too. Hope he gets more game time! Great start. Welshman76

11:58am Sat 1 Sep 12

Robert Shillabeer says...

Everyone has his/her opinion of who the man of the match was, but that's OK as everyone sees the game in a different light. The person who actually picks the MOM has his and yes it may differ to others view, but what the hell it was a good performance all round anyway so perhaps there were 20 men of the match as they all played rather well and gave us a taste of things to come hopefully.
Everyone has his/her opinion of who the man of the match was, but that's OK as everyone sees the game in a different light. The person who actually picks the MOM has his and yes it may differ to others view, but what the hell it was a good performance all round anyway so perhaps there were 20 men of the match as they all played rather well and gave us a taste of things to come hopefully. Robert Shillabeer

6:02pm Sat 1 Sep 12

larneman says...

Now that's what I call impressive.I heard the dragons roar over here in northern I reland.
Now that's what I call impressive.I heard the dragons roar over here in northern I reland. larneman

6:36pm Sat 1 Sep 12

Magoo30 says...

Let's not get carried away, but that was impressive. The three quarters, from Jon Evans to Dan Evans are as exciting as as anything we've had since the inception of regional rugby, and we've still got Hughes and Chavanger in the sidelines.
The back five of the scrum were terrific and Jevon Groves really stepped up to the plate. The front row looked solid but the only down side was the number of penalties they gave away, but I'm sure Iestyn will sort that out in the fullness of time.
As for the man of the match, Leach was terrific and how long is it since a Dragons man of the match announcement was not followed by the names Faletau or Lydiate?
I think last night showed we are putting together a side that will not rely on these two 'superstars' and that should relieve them of the pressure that has previously been placed on their very young shoulders.
Good luck in Dublin next week and bring on the Blues in a fortnight.
Let's not get carried away, but that was impressive. The three quarters, from Jon Evans to Dan Evans are as exciting as as anything we've had since the inception of regional rugby, and we've still got Hughes and Chavanger in the sidelines. The back five of the scrum were terrific and Jevon Groves really stepped up to the plate. The front row looked solid but the only down side was the number of penalties they gave away, but I'm sure Iestyn will sort that out in the fullness of time. As for the man of the match, Leach was terrific and how long is it since a Dragons man of the match announcement was not followed by the names Faletau or Lydiate? I think last night showed we are putting together a side that will not rely on these two 'superstars' and that should relieve them of the pressure that has previously been placed on their very young shoulders. Good luck in Dublin next week and bring on the Blues in a fortnight. Magoo30

9:23pm Sat 1 Sep 12

Doberman1 says...

A great result to get the season off to a flyer however let's take a quick reality check, the opposition were truly awfull. I think the majority of teams this year will look to put 30plus points on them. Thought the new signings certainly improved us and my favourite was Nimmo who what he lacks in ability he certainly makes up for in effort, I think he will become a crowd favourite. Let's see how we are after the next 2 games which will certainly tell us a lot more than last night about our prospects for the season.
A great result to get the season off to a flyer however let's take a quick reality check, the opposition were truly awfull. I think the majority of teams this year will look to put 30plus points on them. Thought the new signings certainly improved us and my favourite was Nimmo who what he lacks in ability he certainly makes up for in effort, I think he will become a crowd favourite. Let's see how we are after the next 2 games which will certainly tell us a lot more than last night about our prospects for the season. Doberman1

9:55am Sun 2 Sep 12

Magoo30 says...

I think Doberman 1 has got it spot on. Good performance but too early to tell what lies ahead. Scarlett's performance against Leinster last night certainly puts our result into perspective
I think Doberman 1 has got it spot on. Good performance but too early to tell what lies ahead. Scarlett's performance against Leinster last night certainly puts our result into perspective Magoo30

1:21pm Sun 2 Sep 12

GazzaH says...

Great to start with a 5 pointer but we need a reality check. Steffan J tends to overdue the kicking option rather than spread it wide(he's also being picked up as a weak link with his tackling). Robling may well turn out to be the better long term option. Toby still doesn't look the same player as last season and has a tendency to lose the ball in contact. We won't play another side who will spill the ball as often as Zebre did. Crowd was bitterly disappointing and the announcer is even more irritating than last year. Boys will do well to keep the losing margin below 25 points next week.
Great to start with a 5 pointer but we need a reality check. Steffan J tends to overdue the kicking option rather than spread it wide(he's also being picked up as a weak link with his tackling). Robling may well turn out to be the better long term option. Toby still doesn't look the same player as last season and has a tendency to lose the ball in contact. We won't play another side who will spill the ball as often as Zebre did. Crowd was bitterly disappointing and the announcer is even more irritating than last year. Boys will do well to keep the losing margin below 25 points next week. GazzaH

12:22am Mon 3 Sep 12

Robert Shillabeer says...

Gazzah thanks for optimism and encouragement. The side really needed your optimistic views, who do you support? It is early days yes, but we have to build on sold ground, so on to the next challenge and the prep this week will build on the performance and knowledge we have so onward and upward is the key.
Gazzah thanks for optimism and encouragement. The side really needed your optimistic views, who do you support? It is early days yes, but we have to build on sold ground, so on to the next challenge and the prep this week will build on the performance and knowledge we have so onward and upward is the key. Robert Shillabeer

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