Magners League - Round 1 Review
Dragons power past Ulster
September 6, 2009

The Dragons hit the ground running at Rodney Parade on Sunday, scoring three tries in a 23-6 victory over Ulster.

A break by fly-half James Arlidge sparked the home side in to life, the Japan international cutting the Ulster line and firing a scoring pass to wing Aled Brew. Ulster's response came from the boot of fly-half Ian Humphreys but Arlidge was on hand soon after to restore a five point cushion heading in to the break.

Both teams lost props to the sin-bin just before the break, Italian referee Carlo Damasco losing patience with Dragons' Ali McKenzie and Ulster's BJ Botha after repeated collapsed scrums.

Arlidge and Humphreys traded penalties again soon after, before winger Richard Fussell bagged the Dragons' second try following superb work by centre Tom Riley and fullback Jason Tovey.

The points were wrapped up by Ashley Smith, the centre capitalising on an error by Humphreys under the high ball to hack clear and score.

Leinster made an underwhelming start to their Magners League campaign, the Heineken Cup champions slumping to an 18-16 defeat away to the Scarlets on Saturday night.

The Irish province had started sluggishly, with Scarlets winger Sean Lamont marking his competitive debut with a fantastic try, the Scot blazing through a static Leinster defence to score.

However, Leinster's response was swift and emphatic, and they turned a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead in less than ten-first half minutes, Jonathan Sexton slotting over two penalties either side of a try for Girvan Dempsey, who had cruised over in the right corner after being the recipient of a measured lofted pass from summer signing Shaun Berne.

Leinster continued to dominate for the rest of the half but failed to take advantage, even during a short spell in which the Scarlets had been forced to make do with just 13 men following the sin-binnings of Richie Pugh and Rhys Thomas.

Their numerical advantage did not last long, though, as prop Stan Wright was needlessly yellow carded just four minutes before the break. As it was, Leinster, for all their dominance, reached the interval just six points up, with Rhys Priestland having nailed a 40-metre penalty with the last kick of the half.

The visitors continued to monopolise possession of the ball after the break and really should have pulled clear when Shane Jennings made a burst for the line but the flanker lost possession of the ball just as he was attempting to ground it.

The game then turned decisively in the Scarlets favour just after the hour. First, Phil John lumbered over after being found with a stunning off-load in the tackle from Scarlets captain Mark Jones wide on the right wing.

Priestland rather surprisingly failed to convert but it mattered not, as three minutes later he made amends, landing a penalty from close range, after Sean O'Brien had been yellow carded for not rolling away.

Leinster tried valiantly to turn the game around but Scarlets held firm to claim a win which will justify the optimism surrounding the Welsh region going into the new season.

Glasgow Warriors sprang a surprise on Magners League champions Munster at Firhill, racing away to a 22-9 victory in front of their home fans.

Fly-half Dan Parks scored five penalties for Sean Lineen's Warriors, who secured the points with a try from replacement Ruaridh Jackson. Munster paid heavily for the sin-binning of fly-half Jeremy Manning after 64 minutes, conceding to Jackson four minutes later.

Manning followed his halfback partner Peter Stringer to the sin-bin, having earlier registered all of Munster's points with three penalties.

Thom Evans, Bernardo Stortoni and Graeme Morrison terrorised the Munster defence in patches, with the champions' pack looking muted on their first competitive outing of the season.

They had made a bright start thanks to powerful surges by Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi and Manning but fell behind to Parks' boot and couldn't regain a foothold.

The Ospreys got their season underway with a hard-fought 19-12 win over Connacht at the Sportsground. Replacement hooker Huw Bennett sealed the points for the visitors with a try after an hour, eclipsing a decent effort from the kicking tee by Connacht fly-half Ian Keatley.

Keatley, fresh from winning Ireland caps in the summer, notched four penalties including one on the final whistle to secure a losing bonus-point. Dan Biggar had earlier given the Ospreys the lead with a drop-goal, but they trailed to two Keatley penalties at the break.

The Ospreys lost lock Andy Lloyd to the sin-bin towards the end of the first-half and the referee had a key role to play in the final reckoning. Mike McComish was the first Connacht player to head to the bin on 54 minutes and he was followed minutes later by scrum-half Frank Murphy following a controversial offside call.

Against 13 men, Bennett scored from a driving maul for the game's only try and Biggar added another penalty before James Hook rounded off the scoring for the victors.


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