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Newport Gwent Dragons 32 Exeter Chiefs 37

01 Feb 2015
Newport Gwent Dragons 32 Exeter Chiefs 37

Defending LV= Cup champions Exeter Chiefs charged into the final four of the competition again thanks to a gutsy 37-32 victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons.

Adam Hughes, Fetu’u Vainikolo and Tom James all went over in the first half, before Sam Skinner’s score and a penalty try gave the visitors a bonus point.

But the Dragons fought back in the closing stages to bring the gap to just five points, Cory Hill, Luc Jones, Scott Matthews and Jason Tovey securing the hosts two bonus points of their own.

Exeter skipper Ceri Sweeney received at hostile reception at his old stomping ground, but with the wind in their backs Exeter made a blistering start to the game.

Hughes raced over the whitewash for the first try with just seven minutes on the clock, when the centre latched onto a loose Dragons pass and sprinted home from close to the halfway-line, Sweeney adding the extras.

Another try followed just five minutes later as the hosts struggled to get a foothold in the game, with Hughes at the centre of the action again as he cut through the middle of the park before being halted, but Haydn Thomas was able to feed Vainikolo to score in the corner to make it 12-0.

Exeter were dominant at scrum-time in the early stages of the game, but Newport were able to close the gap with a 15th-minute Tom Prydie penalty from right in front of the posts when the Chiefs strayed offside.

But the Dragons returned the favour four minutes later on halfway, and Sweeney stuck his long-range effort straight through the uprights.

Newport came close after 24 minutes with their first real threat on the visitors try line, Tom Johnson denying Dorian Jones in the corner after a clever chip and chase from the No.10.

But with the Chiefs pack still making their advantage count Lloyd Fairbrother was sin-binned for persistently dropping the scrum, and another huge scrum saw Exeter win another penalty right in front of the posts which Sweeney converted.

The game opened up before half-time, and the crowd were entertained by some end to end rugby as first Vainikolo went close for the Chiefs, before a great covering tackle by Byron McGuigan stopped Prydie for the Dragons.

The winger was able to add another penalty before the interval to bring the score to 18-6, but the Dragons had a lot of improving to do in the second-half.

And it did not start well again for the hosts after the break, with Exeter building the phases before James collected a McGuigan chip to score another try, Sweeney’s conversion making it 25-6.

The momentum shifted slightly when McGuigan saw yellow on 50 minutes for a shoulder barge, and the Dragons took advantage three minutes later when Hill finished off a well-worked catch and drive.

Prydie was on target from the kicking tee again to add the extras, but Exeter began to pour forward in search of the all important bonus point try.

And they were rewarded on 61 minutes when Skinner went over from close range, but Sweeney missed his kick from out wide.

But the Dragons refused to throw in the towel, and after a determined drive replacement Jones scrambled through to touch down and convert a sustained period of pressure on 66 minutes.

And the home side set-up a grandstand finish when Matthews exposed a poor bit of defending from Exeter to score again four minutes later, although Prydie could not reduce the gap to three points as his conversion attempt sailed wide at 30-25.

But Exeter held firm, keeping hold of possession and winning penalties in the scrum to move higher and higher up the pitch, before they were awarded the penalty try they had been threatening all afternoon from yet another scrum to wrap up the win with five minutes left.

Tovey did ensure the hosts left with two bonus points, as his score out wide in the dying moments secured the Dragons’ fourth try and brought the scoreline to 37-32.

Tickets for this year's LV= Cup Final on 22 March at Franklin's Gardens are now on sale. Click here to snap one up from just £20 for adults, £10 for juniors to see who will win the first silverware of the season.

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