Newport Gwent Dragons ran in three tries in the opening 10 minutes of the second half in their 28-20 victory as they condemned Sale to their first defeat in this season’s LV= Cup and increased their own chances of a semi-final spot.
Scores from wingers Adam Hughes (two) and Aled Brew, aided by 13 points from the boot of fly-half Matthew Jones, mean the Welsh side sit top of Pool Two with one game to go. Sale hit back with three scores of their own from tighthead prop Henry Thomas (two) and substitute loosehead Aston Croall, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to stave off defeat.
The victory also provides a timely tonic for the Dragons after the suspension of their coach Paul Turner earlier in the day due to a pending internal disciplinary hearing. And, despite the turmoil, it was the Dragons who controlled the first period.
However, it was the Sharks who took the lead as a set-piece infringement allowed fly-half Rob Miller to put three points on the board for the hosts. But the home pack were struggling with their footing at the scrum and referee Wayne Barnes gave Jones the chance to restore parity, which he duly took.
The Dragons’ fly-half then added another penalty before quick thinking by Sale scrum-half Dwayne Peel saw centre Chris Bell released down the left, but the move broke down. An otherwise dreary half sparked into life when Miller’s misplaced pass meant Newport winger Aled Brew could break from his own 22.
Brew was then tracked by Iain Thornley and, at the ensuing ruck, tempers reached boiling point as Peel was taken out by Dragons lock Scott Morgan, with the resulting fracas seeing both Morgan and Sharks full-back Nick Macleod sin-binned.
The Dragons then took a decisive step towards victory as they tan in three tries in 10 minutes at the start of the second period. Firstly, centre Matthew Watkins off-loaded to Hughes for the wing to cross, with the wide man repeating the dose minutes later as the visitors took control.
Jones converted and straight from the kick-off the Dragons scored again, a fortunate ricochet giving the pacey Brew an easy run for the line. Barnes had to check with the video referee before confirming the score but Jones added the extras and Sale were seemingly sinking without a trace.
The Welsh side were now in search of a bonus point, but despite initially declining the chance of a relatively easy kick at goal, Jones added another three-pointer to stretch their lead to 25 points. The home side hit back, though, with young prop Thomas scoring two quick tries, Macleod converting one of the efforts. But, despite Jones being put in the sin-bin late on, Croall’s late try wasn’t enough for Pete Anglesea’s side.