Planet Rugby

Dragons edge out Saracens

07th February 2010 19:05

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Will Harries dragons saracens

Will Harries: Two tries

Saracens staggered to an LV= Cup semi-final away to Northampton despite losing 23-22 at home to a Dragons team who treated the game as if they also had something to play for.

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The English side went into the game knowing one point would send them to Franklin's Gardens while victory would mean a trip to take on the Cardiff Blues.

But despite having nothing but pride to play for, the Dragons made it clear from the start that they had come to Vicarage Road to show their rugby skills.

Glen Jackson can always be relied upon to nail free gifts, however, and when Newport's fine start faded and they handed Saracens a sixth-minute penalty, Jackson made no mistake and doubled their lead with his second goal in the 10th minute.

Just when it looked as if Saracens would ease into total control, a fine pass from Newport captain Ashley Smith unleashed wing Will Harries whose twisting turning solo run carved open the home defence for a splendid 15th-minute try converted by fly-half Jason Tovey.

That man Jackson took only six minutes to recapture the lead with his third penalty of the night and his 12th out of 12 attempts in the competition this season.

The see-saw scoring continued when Tovey landed a huge penalty from near halfway three minutes later and Newport were determined to play their part in what was turning into an exciting cup tie.

Sure enough, Jackson regained the lead yet again with 28 minutes on the clock with kicking of a standard that Jonny Wilkinson would acknowledge as top drawer.

The only puzzle was the lenient approach of referee Wayne Barnes who warned hooker Steve Jones for three late hits on Justin Marshall, as he awarded the penalty but did not flourish the yellow card Jones deserved.

Jackson's fine record in the competition ended when he sent his fifth attempt on goal wide from 40 yards in the 31st minute but Tovey fared no better with a drop-goal attempt that he hooked badly wide.

Tovey tilted things back the Dragons' way on the stroke of half-time with an excellent long-range penalty from a difficult angle.

Saracens were running the risk of missing out of what seemed a certain semi-final place when wing Harries struck again on 47 minutes. It was Dragons captain Smith who was again the provider, this time with a clever grubber kick that caught the home defence flat-footed. Tovey's conversion opened up an eight-point gap that stunned the home crowd.

The change on the field prompted a flurry of changes off the bench which Springbok Neil de Cock and Derick Hougaard replacing Marshall and Jackson - and fly-half Hougaard made his presence felt within 60 seconds of arriving, arrowing over a drop goal.

That lifted Saracens and their fans and when Chris Wyles charged down an attempted clearance by Martyn Thomas, his pace took him clear for an opportunist try and Hougaard's conversion should have put Saracens back on the winning track.

Instead Tovey had the nerves jangling again with a calmly-taken drop goal on the hour as Newport simply refused to be dominated.

Hougaard tried a 50-yard penalty on 70 minutes but it just faded feet from the posts and then a drop-goal attempt also drifted outside the post as Saracens tried desperately to make their semi-final berth safe.

And the home crowd voiced their frustration as Hougaard tried two penalty attempts from inside his own half and two drop-goal attempts from long range, all four of which were off-target.

But all that mattered for the home side was making it into the last four of the cup.

The Scorers

For Saracens:
Try:
Wyles
Con: Hougaard
Pens: Jackson 4
Drop: Hougaard

For Dragons:
Tries:
Harries 2
Cons: Tovey 2
Pens: Tovey 2
Drop: Tovey

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Richard Haughton, 13 Rodd Penney, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Justin Marshall, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Wikus van Heerden (capt), 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Richard Skuse, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Kasiano Lealamanua.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Alex Brown, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Derick Hougaard, 23 James Short.

Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Will Harries, 13 Matthew Watkins, 12 Ashley Smith (capt), 11 Richard Fussell, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Grant Webb, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Danny Lydiate, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Hugh Gustafson.
Replacements: 16 Duane Goodfield, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Pat Palmer, 19 Hoani MacDonald, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 James Leadbeater, 22 James Arlidge, 23 Aled Brew.

Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege (England), Andrew Watson (England)
Television match official: John Burtenshaw (England), David Matthews (England)

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