Newport Gwent Dragons strolled to a comfortable 30-12 victory against Sale Sharks in their European Challenge Cup opener
First half tries from Ollie Griffiths, Rynard Landman and Adam Hughes plus one conversion from Dorian Jones meant the Welsh side led 17-0 at the break
The Sharks looked revived in the second half, touching down two tries through James Mitchell and Jon Mills
Two Jones penalties after the restart secured the comfortable win before Matthew Screech’s late try gains a bonus point for the hosts
BY SAM McCARTHY
Newport Gwent Dragons made a perfect start to their European year as they comfortably overcame Sale Sharks to record a bonus-point win in their opening game of this year’s Challenge Cup.
The Dragons showcased exactly what they are capable of as they took a 17-0 lead at the break after tries from Ollie Griffiths, Rynard Landman and Adam Hughes with Dorian Jones adding one conversion.
Sale launched a second-half fightback through James Mitchell and Jonathan Mills scores, but two penalties from the boot of Jones gave the Dragons a decisive lead and a Matthew Screech try ensured a relatively comfortable win for the hosts, plus a potentially crucial bonus point.
It took only five minutes for Ollie Griffiths to wriggle his way through the Sale defence after a well-worked sequence of passing to take his side five points up. Dorian Jones couldn’t add the extras from the tee in blustery conditions, 5-0.
Although Sale were able to dominate possession in the minutes after, they were struggling to get the ball over the line, credit to some robust Welsh defending.
The Sharks Brian Mujati thought he got his side back on level terms but after much deliberation from the referee and the use of the Television Match Official he was ruled offside.
The home side continued to weather the storm and hit Sale on the break and eventually got their reward just before the half hour when skipper Landman went through unchallenged to touch down the Dragon’s second score. This time, the fly-half nailed the conversion, 12-0.
Four minutes from half-time they had try number three when Adam Hughes managed to cross the whitewash. Another successful scrum followed by some quick, short passes allowed him to crash over. Jones conversion drifted wide, but the host still held a convincing lead 17-point lead at the break.
A reinvigorated Sale outfit started the second half and found themselves scoring their first try in the 48th minute by none other than debutant James Mitchell. The conversion was scored by Nick Macleod, 17-7.
Any chance of a comeback was soon ended though as the Dragon’s were awarded a penalty kick, which would subsequently be converted by Jones.
Immediately after, the home side were a man down after Phil Price was sin-binned for driving from the side.
Sale made use of the extra man as Captain Jonathan Mills crashed over for the visitors second try in the 54th minute. Macleod though could not convert, 20-12.
Another Jones penalty edged Newport further in front before Matthew Screech’s late try secured what could be a crucial bonus point. Jones then converted to complete the scoring, 30-12.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Newport Gwent Dragons: Ollie Griffiths
Griffiths put in an inspiring performance against Sale Sharks. The 20-year-old made four carries and nine tackles as well as making 34 metres while contributing to the scoreboard with a try. The flanker demonstrated composure on the ball while having the ability to pick a pass accurately while simultaneously dictating the tempo when attacking were the pinnacle in his side’s victory. Despite his young age, he demonstrated today why he is one of the fastest rising stars in the rugby world right now.