Newport-Gwent D'gons v Zebre - 31 August

Fri, 31 Aug 21:27:27 2012

Dragons defeat Zebre in opener

Newport Gwent Dragons will experience the rare glory of sitting top of the RaboDirect Pro12 table after a 37-6 bonus-point victory over new Italian outfit Zebre at Rodney Parade.

It was a rousing first-half performance by the Welshmen, who are more used to fighting at the other end of the league rather than the top end.

Dan Evans grabbed two first-half tries with others coming from centre Andy Tuilagi and wing Will Harries while wing Tom Prydie kicked four conversions and two penalties and fly-half Steffan Jones added a drop-goal against two penalties for Zebre's fly-half Luciano Orquera.

The Dragons had their four tries and bonus point in the bag by the break with probable and possible Welsh caps for the big Autumn Test matches against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia watched by national coach Warren Gatland and assistant Neil Jenkins from the stand.

Gatland would have been impressed by the very early season form of regular Wales stars Dan Lydiate and Toby Faetau, who both had good run-outs against a Zebre side who showed plenty of fighting spirit for their debut in the competition.

However, as reasonable as the Italians were in attack, their defence was found wanting when stretched, leaving them way off the pace at 34-6 at half-time.

Full-back Evans had a glorious 40 minutes. The Wales Under-20 cap, making his debut for the Gwent side after five seasons at the Scarlets, set-up the first try of the campaign for powerful Tuilagi on 13 minutes before scoring two himself towards the end of the half.

But none of those three tries matched the cracker on 19 minutes which came after a thumping tackle inside the home 22 saw hooker Steve Jones, another on Gatland's possible list, retrieve the ball.

The Dragons skipper ran out and gave it to Prydie before the ex-Wales wing produced a piece of quick-thinking.

He was tackled into touch but threw the ball straight back into play, found Jones who laid the ball to Harries to storm over.

Jones booted a drop-goal while Prydie added all four conversions to an early penalty against two penalties from Zebre stand-off Lucian Orquera.

The concern for Dragons coach Darren Edwards, though, must have been how his side dropped the intensity in the second half having established such a big lead.

Zebre, with the pack working as a unit and a wily scrum-half in 14-times Italy capped Tito Tebaldi behind, put pressure on the Welshmen for quite a while in the second period but failed to find a route to the line.

As the clocked ticked over the hour mark, the Dragons finally got the scoreboard moving again when Zebre infringed in front of their posts and Prydie popped over his second penalty.

To their credit, the Italians were enterprising in attack all night with the ball in hand and were not worried about throwing it around via the forwards or backs - which kept the home side on their toes.

But it was not a good second-half for the Dragons.

Nevertheless, Gatland and Jenkins left the ground a few minutes before the end having seen a job well done - although it goes from one extreme to the next in the Dragons' second league game where they play last season's runners-up and Heineken Cup champions Leinster in Dublin.


Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account