LV= Cup 2014: Northampton Saints power past Dragons
LV= Cup 2014: Northampton Saints power their way to a 34-16 win over Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday
A weakened Northampton Saints side powered their way toward the LV= Cup semi-finals with a win over Newport Gwent Dragons at a rain-soaked Rodney Parade.
The Dragons had outside-half Jason Tovey’s kicking to thank for a 16-15 half-time lead, but the Welsh region were whitewashed in the second half as Saints’ superior strength up front proved too much.
Lyn Jones’ side led 6-3 in the opening quarter as Tovey and Glenn Dickson traded kicks, but saw his scrum-half son Luc have a kick charged down charged which the Wales U-20 won the race to touch down beyond his own try-line.
From the resultant scrum, an awful pass from Dragons No8 Netani Talei put centre Ashley Smith under pressure and driven back over his own tryline. To compound matters for the Dragons, the inevitable Saints’ attacking scrum saw referee Andrew Small award a penalty try.
Tovey brought the Dragons back with a third successful penalty kick, only for Saints to hit back as quick ball through the hands found former Ospreys scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i , whose offload in the tackle evaded Dragons wing Ross Wardle, giving opposite number Fa’atoina Autafavaia an easy run-after an impressive pick-up off his toes.
As the WRU announced in Cardiff that Wales captain Sam Warburton had signed a central contract to remain in Wales next season, rain and hailstones descended on Rodney Parade, Saints flanker Teimana Harrison was yellow carded for an offside offence and Tovey missed a penalty as conditions became unplayable and forced the referee to lead the players off the pitch.
After a short delay, the Dragons produced an impressive driving maul from a lineout in the Saints’ 22 and, after being stopped short, Luc Jones avenged his earlier error to dive over with the TMO confirming the try. Tovey added the conversion to give the hosts an unlikely lead at the break.
The Saints’ power advantage in the tight five proved crucial again at the start of the second half with another surge for the Dragons’ tryline, with hooker Mike Haywood touching down for the visitors’ third try.
Saints wrapped up the try bonus point on 53 minutes as tighthead prop Gareth Denman slid over in the right corner.
The experience of Richie Rees and Rhys Thomas from the bench gave the Dragons fresh impetus as the conditions meant both sides were intent on attacking rugby, but the Aviva Premiership side were sharper in defence and the forwards continued to pound the Dragons pack.
With standing water playing a major part in the match, both sides struggled to retain possession and their footing as they piled forward at every opportunity.
The referee went to the TMO as the Dragons splashed their way in front of the Saints’ posts and looked to have come close to a second try, but the ball was inches short.
From the resulting scrum, the Dragons’ attack succumbed to excellent scramble defence from the Saints who turned the ball over and cleared.
With victory in sight for the visitors, their fifth try on 69 minutes was another case of dejà vu for Jones’ side. From another lineout inside the Dragons 22, the Saints’ driving maul succeeded in driving the Dragons back, giving No.8 GJ van Velze the easiest task of touching down,
With five minutes remaining, a footrace between Wardle and Ken Pisi saw both wingers splash through the large puddle in front of the Saints’ posts to go over the tryline, but the TMO adjudged that both players had downward pressure on the ball at the same time, resulting in another Dragons attacking scrum. The inevitable result: Saints turned over with ease and cleared.