Northampton Saints secured a comfortable 30-20 LV= Cup victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade despite a hat-trick from South African international Tonderai Chavhanga.
Phil Dowson and Jamie Elliott went over for the visitors, Ryan Lamb adding 20 points with the boot, while Tom Prydie kicked five points for the hosts to go with Chavhanga’s scores.
The Dragons have only won twice since March and looked as though they might add to that tally with a 10-6 half-time lead, but the Saints, who lie fifth in the Aviva Premiership, proved too powerful.
Northampton applied significant pressure in the early stages, Hugh Gustafson tackling Ken Pisi inches from the Dragons line, and Lamb missing an early penalty in a frenetic start.
In the tenth minute some slick passing saw the Dragons spread the play from left to right, but Dan Evans’ pass which sent Will Harries clear was correctly adjudged to have gone forward.
But the visitors opened the scoring in the 14th minute, Lamb making amends for his earlier miss after Tom Brown was penalised for not moving away.
With the Saints applying increasing pressure, Lamb’s clever kick to the try line was well intercepted by Wayne Evans just ahead of Elliott.
But after 22 minutes Prydie found the accuracy required from a long-range penalty, his kick levelling the scores, only for Lamb to restore Saints’ lead three minutes later.
However, Newport went ahead in the 35th minute, Springbok Chavhanga being fed an inside pass from Ashley Smith before running clear to touch down, Prydie converting for 10-6.
Northampton were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time, the hosts penalised for not moving away, but Lamb couldn’t reduce Newport’s four-point advantage.
Just four minutes into the second period the visitors trimmed the deficit to just one point, Lamb converting from inside the Dragons 22 after further indiscipline.
But one minute later Lamb went from hero to villain as Chavhanga scored his second try of the game to put his side 15-9 ahead.
A poor kick from the fly-half was collected by Evans, who fed Smith, and the skipper played in Chavhanga who surged over the whitewash, Prydie missing the conversion.
In a see-saw encounter Dowson scored a pushover try and Lamb was able to add the extras to put Northampton back in front.
And Lamb extended the Saints' lead in the 56th minute, kicking his fourth penalty of the clash for 19-15, and three minutes later added another three points.
Nathan Buck was yellow-carded in the 62nd minute for not rolling away and Northampton immediately benefitted from their numerical advantage, Lamb kicking a delightful chip down the left to Elliott who crashed over.
The hosts continued to battle though, Harries playing the ball out left to Chavhanga after a sustained spell of pressure, the Springbok racing over to complete his hat-trick for 27-20.
With 74 minutes on the clock Lamb kicked a drop goal to extend his side’s lead to ten points and secure a first win in five for the Saints, who bounced back emphatically from last week’s last-gasp defeat to Harlequins.