Impressive Dragons slay Warriors in Europe
Fly half Sam Davies produced a kicking masterclass as impressive Dragons produced a composed display to secure a crucial win over 14-man Worcester Warriors and take control of Pool 1 in the European Challenge Cup.
On a wet and blustery night, centre Adam Warren went over in the second minute as Dragons made a dream start and scorched into a 13-0 lead.
The accurate boot of former Scotland international Duncan Weir edged Warriors back into the game by the break, as he sent over a hat-trick of penalties, and a try from Tom Howe early in the second half put them ahead.
However, the second half later belonged to Wales international ace Davies as he finished with 20 points as Worcester – who had replacement front row Ethan Waller sent off late on for a dangerous tackle – tasted defeat and missed out on a losing bonus point.
The composed performance on home soil sent Dragons back to the top of Pool 1 on 15 points, ahead of the final two games in January, with a trip to second placed Castres first up.
Dragons made four changes to the starting line-up with Wales ace Cory Hill back in for his first game for the region since January while Warren and Jack Dixon were recalled in midfield.
Hooker Elliot Dee led the team out on his 100th appearance for Dragons to a thunderous ovation.
Worcester, who made sweeping changes and recalled all their star names, conceded a penalty within 30 seconds, for a late hit on Rhodri Williams as cleared the kick-off.
Buoyed by early field position, Dragons made a quite blistering start as Jack Dixon blasted a hole, back row duo Ollie Griffiths and Aaron Wainwright rumbled up close before a long miss pass sent Warren over. Davies added the extras.
Davies nudged Dragons further ahead with a penalty, after Worcester were pinged at the breakdown, and added another kick seven minutes later, when the visitors strayed offside, for a 13-0 lead to the delight of the home support.
Worcester fly half Weir reduced the lead with a superb touchline penalty, but it was the home side who continued to look a real threat as the creative Warren threw another long ball down the line to create an overlap for Ashton Hewitt.
Francois Hougaard twice sliced clearing kicks into touch on the full to hand strong attacking platforms to Dragons, but with rain falling heavily it was proving hard for both teams to string long phases together.
Weir, though, was ultra accurate with his right boot to eat into the lead before he twice sent penalties into the home 22 as Warriors looked to build pressure.
Tempers flared off the ball, forcing referee Ludovic Cayre to stop play and sin bin Ashton Hewitt and Cornell Du Preez, before a menacing Worcester driving maul was halted short to a huge home cheer.
However, a penalty right on the stroke of half-time from the unflappable Weir cut the lead to 13-9 at the break.
A sloppy start to the second half saw Worcester look to apply pressure at scrum time, with prop Brok Harris sent to the sin bin after repeated infringements.
With plenty of space now out in the field - with the home side down to 13 men and Worcester with 14 – an accurate cross field kick from Weir found wing Howe who darted over in the corner.
Weir added the extras as the visitors took the lead for the first time before Davies added a penalty of his own with half an hour left to play, to level it back up at 16-16.
An uncharacteristic miss from Weir let Dragons off the hook as the rain started to absolutely hammer it down in South Wales.
Replacements Aaron Jarvis and Richard Hibbard added renewed grunt up front while Davies hammered over a monster long range penalty on 59 minutes as the game continued to swing from side to side.
Davies added three more, as the penalty count now started to hurt the Warriors, to edge Dragons closer to the victory with 12 minutes left before a dramatic red card for Worcester, with replacement Waller dismissed for foul play against Hill.
Another penalty from the impressive Davies sent Dragons out of range and ensured a deafening cheer at the final whistle as Worcester left Rodney Parade empty-handed.
03m Warren t Davies c 7-0
09m Davies p 10-0
16m Davies p 13-0
20m Weir p13-3
31m Weir p 13-6
40m Weir p 13-9
46m Howe t Weir c 13-16
50m Davies p 16-16
59m Davies p 19-16
68m Davies p 22-16
75m Davies p 25-16
Dragons: Will Talbot-Davies, Owen Jenkins, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Elliot Dee (Hibbard 55), Leon Brown (Jarvis 55), Joe Davies, Matthew Screech (Keddie 64), Cory Hill, Ollie Griffiths, Aaron Wainwright
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Josh Reynolds, Aaron Jarvis, Max Williams, Harrison Keddie, Luke Baldwin, Jacob Botica, Tyler Morgan
Worcester: Chris Pennell, Perry Humphreys, Ashley Beck, Jono Lance, Tom Howe, Duncan Weir, Francois Hougaard (Heaney 64); Callum Black (Waller 55), Nial Annett (Miller 17), Nick Schonert (Palfarman 61), Anton Bresler (Clegg 75), Graham Kitchener, Ted Hill, Sam Lewis (Black 79), Cornell Du Preez (Van Velze 62)
Replacements: Isaac Miller, Ethan Waller, Richard Palframan, Justin Clegg, GJ van Velze, Michael Heaney, Noah Heward, Nick David
Referee: Ludovic Cayre (Fra)
Man-of-the-Match: Sam Davies