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Munster late show sinks Dragons

03rd March 2012 20:21

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Munster launched a second-half fightback to beat the Dragons 24-14 at Rodney Parade on Saturday in a result that boosts their play-off aspirations.

Both sides showed ambition right from the start, trying to get the ball wide quickly, but struggled to hang onto possession at times.

Fly-halves Ian Keatley and Lewis Robling had no such problems with the boot though as they ensured both teams got on the scoreboard early with a penalty apiece.

The game's first try did arrive midway through the first half as the hosts' stand-in skipper Ashley Smith crossed after a superb jinking run from full-back Will Harries. Robling, playing his first game at fly-half for the Dragons, missed the conversion and five minutes later Munster had taken the lead with two further Keatley penalties.

The Wales U20 international bounced back to notch another three points for the home side moments later though and they held a slender 11-9 advantage at the break.

The Dragons' backline lost a substantial amount of muscle and experience in the opening stages of the second half when Andy Tuilagi was forced off with an ankle injury to be replaced by 17-year-old Jack Dixon.

The youngster performed admirably on his league debut and when Tomas O'Leary was sinbinned midway through the half, it looked as though the Welshmen had the advantage.

Despite a number of visits to the opposition 22 though, they were only able to come away with three points and, before O'Leary had even re-emerged from the bench, Luke O'Dea had made them pay with an excellent finish in the right-hand corner to make it 14-14.

Replacement Scott Deasy edged Munster ahead with a penalty shortly afterwards and then, with five minutes remaining, the reigning champions landed the killer blow as Felix Jones picked up a loose pass from Lewis Evans and cantered away to touch down underneath the posts.

The scoreline was harsh on the Dragons, who played well for large periods and were unfortunate to be denied even a losing bonus point, but the Irishmen were more clinical and showed their pedigree to move into second place in the table.

The scorers:

For Dragons:
Try: Smith
Pen: Robling 3

For Munster:
Tries: O'Dea, Jones
Con: Deasy
Pen: Keatley 3, Deasy

Dragons: 15 Will Harries , 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Andy Tuilagi, 12 Ashley Smith (c), 11 Aled Brew, 10 Lewis Robling, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Tom Brown, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Nathan Williams.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Phil Price, 18 Dan Way, 19 Hugo Ellis, 20 Darren Waters, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Jack Dixon, 23 Steffan Jones.

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Luke O'Dea, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Mick O'Driscoll (capt), 4 Dave Foley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Denis Fogarty, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Denis Hurley.

Referee: Carlo Damasco
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Rhys Thomas
TMO: Tony Rowlands

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