Late tries deny Dragons in derby
Dragons produced a stunning second half comeback but were beaten in a pulsating and action-packed Welsh derby with Scarlets in the United Rugby Championship at Rodney Parade.
After a bright period that saw the Men of Gwent go close to opening the scoring, the home side found themselves 17-0 down after a three-try burst from a clinical Scarlets side.
The fightback started when centre Jack Dixon continued his rich vein of form with a try just before the break - before real fireworks after the break.
Full back Jordan Williams and centre Adam Warren crashed over as Dragons took the lead for the first time and threatened a famous win.
But URC play-off chasing Scarlets were not to be denied and three late scores ensured they avenged defeat a week earlier in Llanelli.
A physical start from the hosts was so close to being rewarded as Ben Fry broke a tackle near the line but Gonzalo Bertranou failed to hang onto the offload with the line beckoning.
Scarlets, on the back foot for the opening ten minutes, struck with their first attack as a driving lineout was halted short before lock Sam Lousi dived over.
Four minutes later, more turnover ball saw the visitors go left at pace and former Dragon Angus O’Brien exploited a gap to race over from near halfway.
Steff Evans was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on as the home side went right at pace to try and work an overlap.
Dragons, though, were dealt a double blow on the half hour mark as firstly Will Rowlands was forced off with a shoulder injury.
And seconds later a driving lineout was shunted over for Scarlets, with Wales hooker Ryan Elias the man to dot down.
The home side nearly produced an immediate response as Sam Davies offloaded in the tackle and Rio Dyer was away, only stopped from scoring by a brilliant last-ditch ankle tap from full back O’Brien.
Pressure finally told as Wainwright broke off the back of a scrum and, when the ball was recycled, it was Dixon who blasted over to cut the lead at the break.
A penalty for a high shot on Bertranou in front of the Compeed Terrace raised the volume even higher at the start of the second period.
And it was deafening as Dragons pushed hard, with Dyer at first receiver bouncing off tackles to make yards, before cool heads freed up space and Jordan Williams reached over.
Ryan made four changes – introducing Rhodri Williams, Taine Basham, Chris Coleman and Elliot Dee – to try and spark even more fire into his Dragons.
And drama threatened to erupt on 54 minutes as Evans – already yellow carded – feared a second after intervention from the TMO, but just a knock on was the decision.
The game was swinging from end-to-end and it was the home side who hit the front on the hour as a sublime flat pass from Davies sent Warren through a gap to an explosion of celebration from home fans.
Scarlets, though, were not rattled and went back to a successful driving maul to retake the lead five minutes later, with Rob Evans dotting the ball down for a 24-19 lead.
Late scores from Corey Baldwin and O’Brien put a final gloss on the score for the visitors who will now feel a play-off place is within reach.
11m Lousi t 0-5
15m O’Brien t Patchell c 0-12
29m Elias t 0-17
35m Dixon t Davies c 7-17
51m J. Williams t 12-17
61m Warren t Davies 19-17
66m Evans t Patchell c 19-24
77m Baldwin t Patchell c 19-31
79m O’Brien t Patchell c 19-38
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Rio Dyer, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Jared Rosser, Sam Davies, Gonzalo Bertranou (R. Williams 51); Aki Seiuli (Reynolds 70), Taylor Davies (Dee 51), Leon Brown (Coleman 51), Ben Carter, Will Rowlands (J. Davies 29), Harri Keddie, Ben Fry, Aaron Wainwright (Basham 51)
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Josh Reynolds, Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, Taine Basham, Rhodri Williams, Josh Lewis, Ioan Davies
Scarlets: Angus O'Brien, Corey Baldwin, Jonathan Davies, Johnny Williams, Steff Evans, Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies, Steff Thomas, Ryan Elias, Javan Sebastian, Sam Lousi, Jac Price, Josh Macleod, Tomas Lezana, Sione Kalamafoni
Replacements: Daf Hughes, Rob Evans, WillGriff John, Morgan Jones, Aaron Shingler, Kieran Hardy, Tyler Morgan, Eddie James
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)