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Match Report: Gloucester Rugby 21 Newport Gwent Dragons 23

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Charlie Davies’ late try for Newport Gwent Dragons knocked defending champions Gloucester Rugby out of the European Challenge Cup with a 23-21 quarter-final victory at Kingsholm.

Ben Morgan and Stevie McColl crossed for tries for the Aviva Premiership Rugby side but the Dragons were always in the contest thanks to the combined boots of Dorian Jones and Carl Meyer before replacement Davies snuck over with five minutes left.

That set up a frantic finish in the West Country but the Dragons held on to set up a semi-final trip to Montpellier and end the Cherry & Whites proud recent record in the Challenge Cup.

Gloucester have now lost five games in a row in all competitions but they started brightly.

However, it was the visitors who drew first blood – Jones slotting his first penalty when the Cherry & Whites went offside.

Ill-discipline was to plague the hosts as the half wore on but in the 14th minute they had the game’s first try – exposing the Dragons’ narrow defence as Matt Kvesic offloaded in the wide channel to Morgan who charged over.

Laidlaw missed with the extras and at the other end Morgan’s rival No.8 Taulupe Faletau made a huge carry to win a second Dragons penalty that Jones again slotted for a 6-5 lead.

Laidlaw responded with his first penalty of the day to regain the lead and when Sarel Preotrius was sent to the sin bin for tackling Sione Kalamafoni off the ball it looked like the hosts would take charge.

The scrum won another penalty that Laidlaw kicked for an 11-6 lead but up to and including the half-hour mark the Dragons made light of their 14 men.

They kept ball and territory and referee Pascal Gauzere continually punished Gloucester – and Kvesic in particular – at the breakdown.

Jones missed two penalties in the wind but slotted a third to trim the lead to 11-9 and when Pretorius returned the domination continued – Laidlaw shown yellow on the stroke of half-time as Jones slotted over his fourth kick to send the Dragons in 12-11 ahead.

After the interval Jones soon added his fifth for a 15-11 lead and when Laidlaw returned to restore Gloucester’s full complement they were struggling to break down the resolute Dragons.

Meyer then made it worse for the hosts, the South African full-back smashing over a penalty from his own half to make it a seven-point lead for the visitors.

The Shed demanded a response and the hosts provided it – Mark Atkinson cut a great line off James Hook to take Gloucester into the Dragons’ 22.

And Hook then put a deft left-footed grubber kick through, the bounce deceived Pretorius and McColl dotted down under the posts.

Laidlaw’s conversion levelled the scores with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Jones had a chance to restore the Dragons’ lead soon after but dragged a drop goal wide from right in front and in the 72nd minute Laidlaw looked like he might have won it with his third penalty.

At 21-18 the Dragons then twice turned down kickable penalties to go to the corner and their bravery and pressure paid off.

The rolling maul was stopped short but replacement scrum-half Davies muscled over from close range for the decisive score.

Jones missed the conversion to leave it at 23-21 with two and a half minutes left but Dragons held firm in the face of Gloucester pressure to secure one of their greatest-ever European wins.
 
 
Gloucester: Tom Marshall; Rob Cook, Henry Trinder, Mark Atkinson, Stevie McColl; James Hook, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Paddy McAllister, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa, Tom Savage, Mariano Galarza, Sione Kalafamoni, Matt Kvesic, Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Darren Dawiduik, Yann Thomas, Paul Doran-Jones, Elliot Stooke, Gareth Evans, Callum Braley, Ollie Thorley, Jacob Rowan.
 
Dragons:
 Carl Meyer; Adam Hughes, Tyler Morgan, Adam Warren, Hallam Amos; Dorian Jones, Sarel Pretorius; Phil Price, Elliot Dee, Brok Harris, Rynard Landman, Nick Crosswell, Lewis Evans (capt), Nic Cudd, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Boris Stankovich, Shaun Knight, Matthew Screech, Ed Jackson, Charlie Davies, Angus O'Brien, Geraint Rhys Jones.
 
Scorers
Gloucester
Tries: Morgan, McColl
Conversion: Laidlaw
Penalties: Laidlaw 3
 
Dragons:
Try: Davies
Penalties: Jones 5, Meyer
 
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Attendance: 10,501

 

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