Dragons make point against champions
Leinster edge out battling Dragons 29-35 in an exciting Guinness PRO14 encounter at a windy Rodney Parade.
Dragons managed to earn a losing bonus point in thrilling circumstances thanks to 19 points from the boot of fly half Sam Davies and two late tries from replacements Luke Baldwin and Josh Lewis.
Two yellow cards for the home side in the second half made all the difference as Lloyd Fairbrother and Dan Baker sin bins allowed Leinster to score 21 unanswered points to take the game away from Dean Ryan's men.
Tries from Peter Dooley, Scott Penny, Josh Murphy, Dan Sheehan and a penalty try - plus ten points from the boot of Ross Byrne - were enough for Leinster to head back to Dublin with a bonus point victory.
Leinster continue their streak in Wales with another victory, having not lost since a defeat to Scarlets in 2018, while Dragons will head to Italy next in the hope they can continue their effort from tonight and end their losing run.
The opening exchanges were quiet and nervy as both teams made unforced errors trying to feel their way into the game.
Dragons were edging the territory and forcing Leinster to give away uncharacteristic penalties, and fly half Davies managed to give the hosts a deserved lead with three points off the tee.
Following a well worked Dragons back move Leinster winger Cian Kelleher tackled full back Jordan Williams without the ball and Davies doubled the home side’s lead with another penalty.
Moments later Davies made it three from three as a well struck kick from the half-way line extended the Dragons lead to 9-0, following a penalty at scrum time.
Reigning league champions Leinster got their first points of the game thanks to loosehead prop Dooley, who went over the whitewash after some fantastic offloading from the Dublin based side. Ross Byrne added the extras to reduce the deficit to 9-7 after 25 minutes.
Dragons did manage to push further ahead after some brilliant work from openside flanker Ben Fry at the breakdown earned another penalty and Davies made no mistake off the tee, making it four from four.
The game continued end-to-end and for this first time in the game Leinster went ahead thanks to their pack, who after multiple pick and goes freed up flanker Scott Penny to power his way over from close range. Byrne added the conversion.
With just three minutes to go before half time Dragons took the lead once again with Davies scoring his fifth penalty of the game.
There still time left for one more score at the end of the first half with Fry believing he got in the corner, but the try was chalked off due to obstruction.
However, five first half penalties from Davies ensured the home side entered the dressing room with a deserved lead over their Irish opponents.
The second half begun similar to the first with both sides making unforced errors, but Dragons struggled at the lineout and put themselves under pressure on their own line.
It led to a yellow card for prop Fairbrother on his 100th league appearance and Leinster made the extra man count by once again powering their way over from close range to re-take the lead. Byrne added the extras making the score 15-21 to the visitors after 50 minutes.
Leinster sealed the bonus point with a penalty try following a powerful driving maul with Baker, on his Dragons debut, sent to the sin bin for his indiscretion.
The away side all but confirmed the result with replacement hooker Dan Sheehan scoring his side’s fifth try of the game with a fantastic angle and feet to finish it off. Byrne added the conversion to make the score 15-35 with nearly 20 minutes to go.
Dragons refused to lie down and bounced back with replacement scrum half Baldwin scoring the home side’s first try of the game and after Davies added his sixth kick of the match the score was narrowed to 22-35.
There was still enough time left for Dragons to get another as with just one minute to go they went over for their second try, another replacement in full-back Lewis and Davies secured a deserved losing bonus point as he kept his 100% record off the tee as the game ended 29-35.
There will be plenty of positives for Director of Rugby Dean Ryan to take away from Rodney Parade with his side fighting back to earn a losing bonus point to show for their efforts while Leinster travel back to Ireland with a bonus point victory.
Dragons: Jordan Williams (Lewis 63), Jonah Holmes (Coleman 51-56), Aneurin Owen, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Baldwin 56); Brok Harris (Bateman 50), Richard Hibbard (Shipp 47), Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Ben Carter, Matthew Screech (Baker 30), Ben Fry, Huw Taylor (Maksymiw 56)
Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Greg Bateman, Chris Coleman, Joe Maksymiw, Dan Baker, Luke Baldwin, Josh Lewis, Connor Edwards
Leinster: Max O’Reilly, Cian Kelleher, Rory O’Loughlin, Ross Byrne, Dave Kearney, Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (CAPT), Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Tom Clarkson, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird, Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Marcus Hanan, Greg McGrath, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rowan Osborne, David Hawkshaw, Jamie Osborne
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 71st competition game)