8:39pm Thursday 12th December 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons’ Amlin Challenge Cup hopes disappeared for another season after they lost their return fixture with Bordeaux-Bègles largely due to the pure brute force of the French forwards who gave the visitors a torrid time.
It was largely one way traffic, only a courageous performance that prevented the defeat being a heavier one.
Poor discipline was also a major cause of this big setback, the Welsh side losing three forwards to the sin bin throughout the match.
The Dragons had started well and were ahead after three minutes thanks to the boot of fly-half Jason Tovey who slotted a penalty only to be cancelled out by his opposite number, Argentina international Nicolas Sanchez.
And the Pumas outside-half tormented them again just minutes later by scoring a converted try as the visitors started taking a mauling up front.
Their scrum was being dismantled by the French Top 14 who used as a platform to completely dominate the game.
It was hard to stop yourself wincing the carnage unleashed by the home side’s pack and the hosts were clearly smarting from last week’s 40-24 beating at Rodney Parade.
In saying that, the Dragons were just about holding in there as Bordeaux-Bègles made a number of handling errors but Sanchez was on target after 23 minutes with his third penalty to make it 16-3.
The Gwent region almost hit back though when some fine phase play saw loosehead prop Owen Evans lose the ball as he went over the Bordeaux-Bègles try-line.
From the resulting scrum-five, the hosts were penalised and Tovey slotted over the three points.
But a silly penalty from the restart meant the deadly Sanchez was given another shot at goal which he didn’t miss.
And the Dragons’ cause wasn’t helped in the slightest when their captain and lock Andrew Coombs was yellow carded from the restart for taking a man out in the air.
But it was the visitors who scored next through a cute try, slick hands putting number eight Toby Faletau under the posts, Tovey’s extras reducing the home side’s lead to 19-13.
And it was the Dragons who ended the half on top, a remarkable turnaround.
But again their fortunes weren’t helped by yet another sin binning, Lewis Evans penalised for a dangerous tackle, Sanchez’s long range taking them two scores ahead.
The visitors were showing great character and some fine play could have seen them yield points only for full-back Dan Evans ran into this own player.
The Dragons discipline let them down for a third time when lock Rob Sidoli was binned for taking his opposite number out in the lineout.
The Top 14 side took advantage eventually when wing Robert Lilomaiava crossed in the corner for his side’s second try, Sanchez missing his first kick of the day with the difficult conversion.
The match petered out in the closing stages, the hosts having proved their point and the Dragons battling on to salvage some pride.
There was still time for Jefferson Poirot to cross in the last minute.
But there is to be no winner takes all clash against Bath at Rodney Parade for the fans to look forward to next month.
Bordeaux-Bègles: Joaquim Tuculet (Romain Lonca 65); Robert Lilomaiava, Charles Brousse, Thibault Lacroix, Jean-Baptiste Lamotte; Nicolas Sanchez, Manu Saubusse; Laurent DelBoulbes (Benat Auzqui 56), Clement Maynadier, Silviu Florea (Jefferson Poirot 57), Cameron Treloar, Adam Jaulhac (Aliki Fakate 60), Gauthier Gibouin (capt), Poutasi Luafutu, Tai Tuifua
Replacements: Benjamin Sa, Marco Tauleigne, Baptiste Serin, Rafael Carballo,
Bordeaux-Bègles scorers: Tries – Nicolas Sanchez, Robert Lilomaiava, Jefferson Poirot, Conversion – N Sanchez, Penalties – N Sanchez (5).
Newport Gwent Dragons: Daniel Evans; Matthew Pewtner, Patrick Leach, Ashley Smith (Will Harries 62), Ross Wardle; Jason Tovey (Steffan Jones 74), Wayne Evans (Richie Rees 70); Owen Evans (Hugh Gustafson 70), Sam Parry (T Rhys Thomas 57), Francisco Tetaz Chaparro (Nathan Buck 57), Andrew Coombs (capt), Robert Sidoli (Matthew Screech 74), Lewis Evans, Nic Cudd, Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Netani Talei,
Dragons scorers: Tries – Toby Faletau, Conversions – Jason Tovey, Penalties – J Tovey (2)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
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