Cheetahs stunned by Dragons' late show
MATCH REPORT: Sam Davies last-gasp penalty earned Dragons their first victory over Cheetahs in a narrow 13-10 win on Saturday.
Cheetahs appeared to be in control at the break in the Conference A battle, with a 10-0 lead thanks to a try from Junior Pokomela and five points from the boot of Tian Schoeman.
*As it happened: Dragons v Cheetahs
But Dragons gradually fought their way back into the contest, first with a Davies penalty before Jared Rosser’s converted try set up a frantic final quarter at Rodney Parade.
And just as the game looked to be heading for a draw, with the clock in the red, Cheetahs gave away a costly penalty to allow Davies to secure a famous win for Dragons on home soil.
Dragons were searching for their first-ever win over Cheetahs as they looked to continue their impressive home form, having won their last four in all competitions at Rodney Parade.
But the hosts got off to the worst possible start as Benhard Janse van Rensburg charged down his opposite number Jack Dixon’s kick and raced towards the tryline.
While Janse van Rensburg was brought down just before the whitewash, Cheetahs recycled the ball and Pokomela made the most of a gap in the Dragons defence to dive over.
Tian Schoeman added the extras before adding a further three points on 17 minutes to extend Cheetahs lead to 10-0 after Ollie Griffiths was pinged for putting his hands in at the ruck.
Dragons looked for a response before the break but while their superiority at scrum time enabled the hosts to pile the pressure on Cheetahs, they were unable to convert territory into points.
That changed after the interval, however, as Dragons started to build on their momentum by closing the gap on Cheetahs – starting with a Davies penalty on 41 minutes.
With the Welsh region finally on the board, they began to turn the screw and a brilliant break from Taine Basham had the Cheetahs defence back-pedalling to bring the flanker down.
The ball was recycled and after another couple of phases, Davies spotted a gap in behind the orange and white stripes’ line, cleverly kicking through for Rosser to dot down.
Dixon’s conversion tied the scores and with 20 minutes to play, the game was right in the balance but despite Dragons’ best efforts it looked like they would have to settle for a draw.
However with the clock deep in the red, Davies attempted a penalty from inside his own half that drifted wide only for Cheetahs to attempt to run the ball back in search of a late score.
In doing so, the visitors gave away a penalty and Davies made them pay.
Player of the Match – Taine Basham
It could only be one man. Returning to the Dragons back row having been released from Wales’ Six Nations squad, the 20-year-old was at his rampaging best against the Cheetahs.
His break set up the Dragons try that got the hosts right back in the game, while he also topped his side’s charts for most defenders beaten (four), metres run (56) and tackles made (13).
Pens: Davies 2
Dragons: 15 Will Talbot-Davies, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Ellis Shipp, 1 Aaron Jarvis
Replacements: 16 Rhys Lawrence, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jacob Botica, 23 Joe Goodchild
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Craig Barry, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Sias Koen, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Chris Smit
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)