Wing Ashton Hewitt grabbed a stunning try on his comeback as Dragons produced a blistering attacking display to defeat Scarlets 34-17 in pre-season and lift the Worthington’s Challenge Trophy.
All eyes were on the returning Hewitt as he made his first appearance for 16 months after a serious shoulder injury – and the wing wonder took just five minutes to announce his return.
After a number of quick darts off his wing, Hewitt collected the ball out wide off turnover ball and brushed off his opposite number before darting over to a huge home ovation.
The game marked Dean Ryan’s first in charge at Rodney Parade and his charges produced a hugely encouraging display with tries from Owen Jenkins (2), Will Talbot-Davies and score from fly half Sam Davies on his home debut.
The opening Guinness PRO14 game with Munster looms large at the end of the month, but Dragons came take heart from a display that was lit up by Hewitt’s dramatic return.
While Hewitt’s return was a success there was less luck for lock Brandon Nansen who was replaced after 13 minutes with a forearm injury that will now be scanned.
In glorious sunshine, the home side were up for the battle from the start and repelled wave after wave of red attack in the opening 25 minutes before hitting back in decisive fashion.
Fly half Davies slotted a penalty just before the half hour to open his account at Rodney Parade before a second try was met with deafening ovation.
Adam Warren stripped ball in the tackle and fed midfield partner and man-of-the-match Jack Dixon who showed great awareness to kick across the field to Jenkins who hacked out of the grasp of Johnny McNicholl and touched down.
A sublime cutting move at the start of the second half extended the lead further as Warren got around his man out wide and fed skipper Rhodri Williams who applied the final pass to send Davies in on his home debut.
Replacement Dan Jones hit back for Scarlets after another lengthy spell of possession for the visitors, Steff Evans beating his man and feeding the fly half to dot down out.
But Dragons immediately struck back with another scintillating score as Warren freed his arms to pop a pass out of the tackle and Jordan Williams applied the final pass to Talbot-Davies.
Dragons were producing some blistering attacking rugby at high pace as they kept the ball alive and looked to stretch play.
Scarlets enjoyed late success with Corey Baldwin and Tomi Lewis scoring, while both teams were reduced to 14 men in a frantic finale.
But it was only fitting that the home side had the final word, Jordan Williams the architect as he blasted through a gap before the ball was fed wide for Wales Sevens wing Jenkins to apply the finish.
04m Hewitt t 5-0
28m Davies p 8-0
29m Jenkins t Davies c 15-0
44m Davies t Davies c 22-0
54m Jones t 22-5
57m Talbot-Davies t 27-5
68m Baldwin t Jones c 27-12
79m Lewis t 27-17
80m Jenkins t Davies c 34-17
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Ashton Hewitt (Talbot-Davies 40), Adam Warren, Jack Dixon (Owen 75), Owen Jenkins, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Baldwin 68); Brok Harris (Bevington 48), Richard Hibbard (Shipp 68), Lloyd Fairbrother (Brown 48), Brandon Nansen (Davies 13), Matthew Screech, Huw Taylor, Ollie Griffiths (Basham 68), Lewis Evans
Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Ryan Bevington, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Taine Basham, Luke Baldwin, Jacob Botica, Will Talbot-Davies, Aneurin Owen
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl, Ryan Conbeer (James 40 (Conbeer 48)), Corey Baldwin (Asquith 40), Steff Hughes, Steff Evans, Angus O’Brien (Jones 40), Ryan Hardy; Rob Evans (Price 60), Marc Jones, Samson Lee (Kruger 60), Lewis Rawlins (Helps 60), Steve Cummins (Helps 48), Tom Phillips, Josh Macleod (Davies 59), Uzair Cassiem (Kennedy 40)
Replacements: Dom Booth, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Josh Helps, Ed Kennedy, Dan Davis, Dan Blacker, Dan Jones, Paul Asquith, Tom James
Referee: Adam Jones