Dragons make winning start
October 3, 2008
The Dragons' Jason Tovey goes airborne to score a try for the hosts
© Getty Images
Newport Gwent Dragons got their Anglo-Welsh campaign off to a winning start with a 25-14 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Rodney Parade.
Former Newcastle captain Colin Charvis grounded the Falcons with a super-sub display for the hosts. The 35-year-old flanker, now part of the Dragons' coaching staff, marked his first senior appearance this season by delivering a memorable second-half performance.
The Dragons trailed 14-13 when Charvis appeared as a 52nd-minute replacement - but he quickly took charge.
Not only did his team start to boss the forward exchanges, he also created a crucial try for substitute wing Tom Isaacs. Charvis, Wales' most capped forward in history with 94 Test match appearances, stole possession in midfield, then delivered a stunning one-handed pass to Isaacs, who sprinted clear.
Newcastle, who recovered from a poor opening period to lead through wing Ollie Phillips' touchdown, had no answer to Charvis' class. And it meant the Dragons enjoyed a successful start to their EDF Energy Cup campaign, as centre Marc Stcherbina and impressive fly-half Jason Tovey also scored.
Tovey added two penalties and two conversions for good measure, giving him a personal tally of 15 points. As Newcastle's stricken superstar Jonny Wilkinson began his recovery from successful knee surgery in the north-east, Charvis and Tovey ensured the Falcons went home empty-handed.
Newcastle, for whom Wilkinson was a high-profile casualty of their midweek Guinness Premiership defeat at Gloucester, fielded just three survivors from that game in the starting line-up. Phillips, full-back Steve Jones and prop Micky Ward were all retained, while the Dragons handed a debut to prop Anthony Lott and were captained by former Northampton centre Stcherbina.
Newcastle dominated early territory, but the game had little flow as referee Rob Debney awarded 12 penalties during the opening quarter. Tovey booted the Dragons into a fifth-minute lead, and with Newcastle making little headway in attack, it was no surprise when they fell further behind.
Tovey's teasing kick into Falcons' 22 was poorly dealt with by wing Danny Williams, a summer recruit from Super League Grand Finalists Leeds Rhinos, and Stcherbina robbed him of possession for a gift try. Tovey added the conversion, and Newcastle trailed 10-0 despite the Dragons suffering injury disruption as prop Hugh Gustafson departed clutching his arm, and wing Tal Selley briefly went off for treatment.
Newcastle, with their backs posing little threat, opted for a route-one approach through the forwards, and it worked as half-time approached. Referee Debney awarded the Falcons a penalty try after the Dragons front row collapsed a scrum in the shadow of their own posts.
Clegg slotted the extras, but Tovey then landed his second successful penalty for a 13-7 interval advantage. Newcastle, who have never progressed beyond the Anglo-Welsh pool stage, are in a tough group that also includes Gloucester and Wasps.
But they discovered an appetite for the battle after half-time, edging ahead through an opportunist try by Phillips.
Bumbling defensive work by the Dragons gave Phillips a sight of the line, and the try was awarded following confirmation from television match official Neil Ballard. Once Charvis appeared though, the Dragons found a new lease of life.
And after successive Magners League victories over Ulster and Edinburgh, their latest triumph will top up confidence levels ahead of next weekend's Heineken Cup opener against Glasgow. Newcastle though, just cannot crack the code to winning away from home.
In three games on their travels so far this term, they have conceded 108 points and 13 tries in losing to Saracens, Gloucester and now the Dragons.
Newport-Gwent D'gons: Dolman, Selley, Gomer-Davies, Stcherbina, Wyatt, Tovey, R. Lewis, Gustafson, S. Jones, Lott, Hall, A. Jones, Lydiatt, Ringer, L. Evans.
Replacements: Connor for Gomer-Davies (44), Isaacs for Wyatt (22), Black for R. Lewis (17), Murphy for S. Jones (55), Charvis for Lydiatt (51).
Not Used: Burns, Brown.
Newcastle: Jones, Phillips, Dillon, Davey, D. Williams, Clegg, Young, Golding, Vickers, Ward, Tomes, Swinson, Beattie, Welch, Winter.
Replacements: Visser for Davey (55), Long for Vickers (55), Williamson for Welch (58).
Not Used: McDonnell, Perry, Charlton, May.
Ref: Rob Debney (Leicestershire).
© PA Sport