The Dragons produced a fine display at a cold and wintery Rodney Parade to down league leaders Munster on Friday night. By David Wilkinson
The Dragons were boosted by the return of Aled Brew and Toby Faletau from Wales while Munster were able to field ex- All Black Doug Howlett.
The Dragons had the better of the opening exchanges with both sides looking to kick for territory on the snow covered surface. Jason Tovey was unlucky with two early penalties as they looked to make the most of their territorial advantage.
The Dragons looked like they would be unrewarded for their superior possession but all that changed following a fine surging run by dynamic number eight, Toby Faletau. He made significant headway into the Munster defence before neatly presenting the ball at the ruck, Tovey delivered a superb pass to centre Tom Riley coming on a great angle to score by the posts. Tovey added the extras handing the Dragons a deserved 7-0 lead.
The Dragons continued to pile on the pressure as Munster struggled to find possession and territory, they were then dealt a further blow when Sam Tuitupou was sin binned for a late challenge on Jason Tovey.
The Dragons looked to press home this advantage and kicked to touch from the resulting penalty. A fine driving maul saw the Dragons go over the line only to be denied by the video ref. However, not to be deterred the Dragons continued to press once again, the impressive Faletau drove into the Munster defence. He was stopped just short but Man of the Match Gavin Thomas picked up the ball and dove under a sea of bodies to claim the score. Tovey added the extras, 14-0.
Munster were then down to 13 men as James Coughlan was shown yellow. This however, seemed to urge the visitors on as they enjoyed some possession in the Dragons half.
The Munster men gained the first points of the evening as Paul Warwick slotted over a penalty. Tovey added one of his own late on in the half making the scores 17-3 going in to the break.
The impressive score line kept spirits high in the stands as the temperatures dropped even further at half time.
After the interval Munster came out all guns blazing and showed exactly why they are such a force in European rugby. They enjoyed the lion share of possession and territory, they were further helped when home skipper Tom Willis was shown yellow for coming off his feet at the ruck.
Despite being in the ascendancy, Munster failed to capitalise with a lone Warwick penalty the sole reward for their continued efforts. The Dragons weathered the Munster storm and soon after Tovey added a long range drop goal to make the scores 20-6 with ten minutes left.
Munster needed two converted scores to at least draw the game, they showed plenty of endeavour and looked like they were going to score, only to be halted by a fine Pat Leach tackle following a kick over the top.
For the final few minutes Munster piled on the pressure looking for a try for the losing bonus point but the resolute defence held firm handing the Dragons a fine win over the European heavyweights.
Dragons (17) 20
Tries: Riley, G Thomas Con: Tovey 2 Pens: Tovey Drop: Tovey
Munster (3) 6
Pens: Warwick 2
Newport-Gwent Dragons: Leach, Hughes, Riley, Smith, A. Brew, Tovey, W. Evans, Price, Willis, Hall, Charteris, Sidoli, L. Evans, G. Thomas, Faletau.
Replacements: Burns for Willis (74), A. Jones for Sidoli (62).
Not Used: Castle, Gustafson, H. Ellis, Cheeseman, J. Evans, M. Jones.
Munster: Deasy, Howlett, B. Murphy, Tuitupou, D. Hurley, Warwick, O'Leary, D. Ryan, Sherry, J. Hayes, Holland, Nagle, O'Donnell, Ronan, Coughlan.
Replacements: Mafi for Tuitupou (72), Gleeson for D. Hurley (55), Murray for O'Leary (78), Borlase for D. Ryan (40), Henry for Sherry (72), du Preez for J. Hayes (40), B. Hayes for Nagle (79), O'Mahony for O'Donnell (54).
Ref: Alan Falzone (Italy).