The Dragons booked their place in the semi-final of the LV=Cup and a date with west country rivals, Gloucester, thanks to a fine victory over the Scarlets.

By David Wilkinson

The Dragons booked their place in the semi-final of the LV=Cup and a date with west country rivals, Gloucester, thanks to a fine victory over the Scarlets.

Heading into the game the Dragons knew a win would be enough to take them through and duly delivered thanks to a brace of tries from Martyn Thomas and one from Luke Charteris. However, they were made to work every step of the way against an inexperienced yet determined Scarlets’ side and only in the second half were they able to show their superiority.

The home side were fresh off the back of a superb away victory in Sale last weekend and were once again able to field the returning trio of Joe Bearman, Matthew Watkins and Martyn Thomas following their lengthy injury absence.

The Dragons looked to put pressure on their visitors from the start as they attacked the Scarlets from the outset and got off to the best possible start as Matthew Jones slotted over a penalty inside three minutes.

Boosted by their penalty, the Dragons looked to increase their lead but were left frustrated by the hardworking Scarlets who managed to draw themselves level on 18 minutes as fullback Dan Evans slotted a penalty.

The poor weather conditions at Rodney Parade didn’t help either side, though the Scarlets were aided by the strong wind behind them. In a scrappy half, Martyn Thomas produced a moment of magic with a searing run up-field showing little effect of the horrific ankle injury he suffered at the end of last season.

Thomas collected the ball in his 22 and cut through the opposition defence racing toward their line, unfortunately Aled Brew was unable to take the pass and finish off the break with the try it fully deserved.

The Dragons managed to double their tally with ten minutes remaining in the half thanks to a second Matthew Jones penalty. As the home side pressed, play was halted for several minutes due to a nasty looking injury to veteran Scarlets’ prop Phil John. It was in the ensuing injury time that Dan Evans drew the scores level with a second penalty right on the stroke of half time.

With scores level at the interval, the Dragons knew they had to improve to guarantee their passage into the semi-final, but soon after the break, found themselves behind for the first time in the game as Evans slotted a third penalty following Aled Brew’s indiscretion at the ruck.

The score-line sparked the Dragons into action and soon after the impressive Luke Charteris crashed over following a powerful Dragons attack. Adam Hughes set up a ruck deep in the 22 before Wayne Evans found Charteris free on the touch line. The giant second row evaded the defence to touch down in the corner. Matthew Jones missed the conversion leaving scores at 11-9.

Buoyed by their score the Dragons looked to press home the advantage and their lead was further stretched when Matthew Jones added a third penalty to make the scores 14-9.

This lead was extended minutes later as the returning Martyn Thomas crossed over in the far corner. The full-back was given the scoring pass from centre Pat Leach following a period of converted pressure. It was no more than the home side deserved after heaping the pressure on the visitors. Matthew Jones added the extras making the scores 21-9.

And it was Thomas who sealed the game as ten minutes later he again crossed in the far corner. The forwards had driven hard at the Scarlets’ pack before Wayne Evans released to replacement fly-half Jason Tovey who produced a sublime floated pass to Thomas who once again made no mistake touching down to make the scores 26-9. Tovey missed the conversion but the game was now safe for the Men of Gwent.

The Dragons looked to add a fourth try to finish the game in style but were denied by the visitors this however, did not matter as the referee blew his whistle to end the game. Victory for the Dragons booked only their second even semi-final appearance, ending a six match losing streak against the Scarlets in the process.
Score summary:
Dragons 26(6)
Tries: M Thomas 2, Charteris
Cons: Jones
Pens: M Jones 3

Pens: Evans 3
Newport Gwent Dragons:
Backs: Martyn Thomas, Adam Hughes, Pat Leach, Aled Brew, Ashley Smith, Matthew Watkins, Matthew Jones, Jason Tovey, Mike Petri, Wayne Evans
Forwards: Scott Roberts, Dan Way, Hugh Gustafson, Tom Willis, Steve Jones, Pat Palmer, Luke Charteris, Scott Morgan, Rob Sidoli, Andrew Coombs, Lewis Evans, Hugo Ellis, Joe Bearman

Scarlets: Daniel Evans; Darren Daniel, Nick Reynolds, Scott Williams, Joe Ajuwa; Owen Williams, Gareth Davies; Phil John (capt), Rhys Lawrence, Rhys Thomas, Adam Powell, Nathan White, Aaron Shingler, Nic Cudd, Damian Welch.
Replacements: Craig Hawkins, Sean Hopkins, Dean Howells, Duane Eager, Mat Gilbert, Martin Roberts, Jonny Lewis, Rheon James.
Referee: Mr Greg Garner (RFU)

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