Planet Rugby

Dragons off to a good start

06th November 2009 21:45

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Shaun Connor v Sale

Shaun Connor makes the early breakthrough

The Dragons pushed themselves to the front of the field of the LV= Cup with a 20-9 win over Sale at Rodney Parade on Friday.

The Dragons, unbeaten at home since March, took an early lead through a converted try from fly-half and captain Shaun Connor, but his opposite number Charlie Hodgson kicked two penalties to narrow the gap to 7-6 at the break.

Connor and Hodgson exchanged further penalties after the break before scrum-half Danny Lee wriggled his way over for a try which clinched the win as replacement fly-half Adam Greendale added the conversion and a further penalty.

The Dragons made 10 changes from the side that beat Edinburgh 9-8 in the Magners League as fly-half Connor became their fifth captain of the season to date.

Kiwi number eight Grant Webb continued his return from injury while Dan Watchurst came in at loosehead prop.

Sale brought David Bishop into the centre for the suspended Andy Tuilagi while hooker Mahonri Schwalger, second row Sean Cox and flanker James Gaskell returned in the pack.

The Dragons started in positive fashion as they won a penalty from Sale's first possession. From the resulting line-out fly-half Connor capitalised on some poor defending to slice through and dot down under the posts for a converted try after just two minutes.

Paul Turner's side continued to be aggressive in their early defensive efforts, with lock Robert Sidoli producing a massive hit on Sharks flanker Luke Abraham, but they strayed offside to allow Hodgson to trim the gap with a penalty.

Connor missed the chance to reply with a penalty of his own after a late challenge by Sharks captain Dean Schofield as he dragged his kick wide and wing Richard Fussell spilled Connor's well weighted chip with just one man to beat as the hosts dominated territory in the early stages.

But Sale were at least able to pick up points on their few visits to the Dragons 22 as Hodgson slotted his second penalty in the 20th minute to close the gap to a single point.

After an entertaining, but scrappy, opening quarter the game settled down into a series of kicking battles, which seemed to suit the visitors as their backline play was characterised by some woeful passing, although the Dragons were also guilty of some poor handling themselves.

The hosts then saw hooker Duane Goodfield sin-binned in the 36th minute after he was adjudged to have spear tackled Hodgson, but the fly-half was unsuccessful with the resulting penalty which would have given Sale a lead they would have scarcely deserved.

Connor kicked his second penalty to extend the Dragons lead to 10-6 shortly after the resumption but they had come bogged down in the kicking battle and, after three separate kicks had been booted out on the full by the hosts, the Sharks took advantage of good field position to force a penalty that Hodgson made no mistake with.

But that score stung the hosts into life and after a period of sustained pressure scrum-half Lee snuck through a gap in Sale's fringe defence to cross. Replacement Adam Greendale, on for Connor, added the extras.

Sale sent on Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel, unavailable for Saturday's Test with New Zealand as the game falls outside the designated IRB international window, but it had little effect as Bedwas product Greendale knocked over a late penalty after replacement Sisa Koyamaibole was sin-binned for clearing out Lee from an offside position to extend the lead to 20-9 and put the seal on the victory.

The scorers:

For the Dragons:
Tries: Connor, Lee
Cons: Connor, Greendale
Pens: Connor, Greendale

For Sale:
Pens: Hodgson 3

Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 William Harries, 13 Rhodri Gomer Davies, 12 Matthew Watkins, 11 Richard Fussell, 10 Shaun Connor (c), 9 Danny Lee, 8 Grant Webb, 7 James Harris, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Adam Jones, 4 Hoani Macdonald, 3 Pat Palmer, 2 Duane Goodfield, 1 Dan Watchurst.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Brown, 17 Hugh Gustafson, 18 Peter Bracken, 19 Toby Falatau, 20 Rob Sidoli, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Adam Greendale, 23 Matthew Pewtner.

Sale Sharks: 15 Nick Macleod, 14 Ben Cohen, 13 David Bishop, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 Marika Vakacegu, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Luke Abraham,6 James Gaskell, 5 Dean Schofield, 4 Sean Cox, 3 Jack Forster, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Eifion Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Rob O'Donnell, 18 Martin Halsall, 19 Kristian Ormsby, 20 Sisa Koyamaibole, 21 Dwayne Peel, 22 Mathew Tait, 23 Oriol Ripol.

Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Huw David (Wales), David Jones (Wales)
Assessor: Les Peard (Wales), Tony Spreadbury

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