REPORT - Munster edge out Dragons
Resilient Dragons were narrowly denied by Munster in horrendous conditions as the Conference A leaders battled to a Guinness PRO14 victory at Rodney Parade.
Prop Lloyd Fairbrother opened the scoring for the hosts from close range as Dragons took a slender lead into the break in wet and windy weather in Newport.
Visiting lock Jean Kleyn hit back just after the hour, with Dragons down to 14 men, as Munster edged ahead.
And man-of-the-match Josh Lewis saw a penalty just miss in swirling winds as the Irish province hung on in a tense finale.
Dragons made six changes to the starting line-up with Lewis returning at fly half, while Munster also made 13 changes with their Ireland internationals away.
In lashing rain, both teams looked to trade kicks in the early stages to gain territory with Rhodri Williams and Jordan Williams heavily involved.
Centre Tyler Morgan almost set up the game’s opening try when he charged down a kick from Mike Haley, but the Munster full back got back to cover the danger.
A high tackle on Jordan Williams then saw a penalty awarded by Scottish referee Ben Blain and Dragons kick to the corner.
That decision was rewarded as the patient forwards shunted up to the line before Fairbrother dotted down from close range. Lewis converted for a 7-0 lead.
Dragons almost scored again after a knock-on by Munster, with Morgan breaking free and releasing Jared Rosser who sped away but was just hauled down short as he looked for a pass inside.
Munster slowly started to grow into the game, but the incessant rain was making it hard for both teams and it was Dragons who were more often than not winning the kicking duel.
Munster cut the lead with a Bill Johnston penalty on the half hour.
A clever low kick in behind from fly half Lewis had Dixon and Morgan interested before Dan Goggin mopped up and a high tackle gave Munster an easy way out.
Dragons were their own worst enemy on the stroke of half-time as a poor inside ball was latched onto by wing Darren Sweetnam who hacked ahead.
Several phases later, Munster appealed for the try, but the TMO chalked it off and ruled it short of the line.
As the rain got even worse at the start of the second half, it was Lewis who looked to spark Dragons as some fine individual skill sent him clear before he saw a drop goal attempt fly wide.
Munster also threatened as a kick in behind from Bleyendaal sent speedster Sweetnam chasing, but he failed to get the bouncing ball down under pressure from Rosser.
A series of penalties saw Munster turn down easy points and go for the corner, with Matthew Screech yellow carded after a succession of infringements by the home side.
Dragons were working tirelessly in defence to withstand wave after wave of Munster pressure. However, they finally broke through courtesy of Jean Kleyn who powered over from close range.
Back came Dragons and Lewis saw a penalty narrowly slide wide as the game entered the final ten minutes on a knife-edge.
Dragons continued to dig deep, with the forwards putting in a huge shift in energy sapping conditions while the backs looked for any opening.
However, Munster continued to put their bodies on the line and ran down the clock to claim the points and leave Dragons wondering what might have been.
14m Fairbrother t Lewis c 7-0
30m Johnston p 7-3
63m Kleyn t 7-8
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Will Talbot-Davies, Josh Lewis, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard (c), Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies (Evans 64), Matthew Screech, Harrison Keddie, Nic Cudd, Ollie Griffiths
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Rhys Fawcett, Dan Suter, Lewis Evans, Taine Basham, Rhodri Davies, Jason Tovey, Zane Kirchner
Munster: Mike Haley (Taute 64); Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Tyler Bleyendaal, Ronan O’Mahony; Bill Johnston (Nash 64), Alby Mathewson; Jeremy Loughman (O’Connor 65), Rhys Marshall (O’Byrne 53), Stephen Archer (Parker 65); Jean Kleyn (O’Shea 71), Billy Holland; Fineen Wycherley, Conor Oliver (Coombes 64), Arno Botha.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Ciaran Parker, Darren O’Shea, Gavin Coombes, Neil Cronin, Calvin Nash, Jaco Taute
Referee: Ben Blain (SRU)