NEWPORT Gwent Dragons ended their season on a winning note by edging out Treviso 20-19 at Rodney Parade.
Victory and Connacht’s pointless trip to Swansea saw the Dragons finish the season ninth in the RaboDirect Pro12 – not enough to prompt the popping of corks but an awful lot better than last term’s 11th.
And there were smiles all round with Treviso snatching a place in the Rugby Champions Cup from Italian rivals Zebre courtesy of a losing bonus point that saw them climb off bottom.
The Dragons made hard work of it but were worthy winners thanks to tries by superb teenage centre Tyler Morgan and wing Will Harries.
It was a game that highlighted the need for next season’s injection of experience to help along the young talent – Lyn Jones’ side should have killed the game off before the hour but their profligacy ensured a nervy end.
Nonetheless, they edged to a victory and ended a seven-game winless streak that stretched back to February.
The Dragons would have been quite content to go into the break just 11-10 down after playing into the wind.
The hosts took the lead through the left boot of Jason Tovey but the Italians soon took command thanks to their heavy pack and power runners.
Cardiff Blues-bound number eight Manoa Vosawai and Leicester-bound flanker Christian Loamanu were causing the Dragons all manner of problems.
But it was the smaller figure of scrum-half Fabio Semenzato that got the visitors on the scoreboard after 16 minutes when he exploited some weak ruck defence to scamper down the blindside from five metres.
Superb covering by centre Pat Leach and flanker Lewis Evans denied Loamanu on the line after Treviso broke 60 metres with counter attack ball following an ill-advised grubber by full-back Hallam Amos but wing Harries was sin-binned for killing the ball.
Amos was then lucky to escape a yellow for a deliberate knock-on and all the visitors could muster from their spell with a man advantage was a penalty by fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo.
And the Dragons were in front after 32 minutes courtesy of a cracking first score in regional colours by 18-year-old Morgan.
The Wales Under-20s centre did superbly to gather Lewis Evans’ pass and scorched past Italy full-back Luke McLean to dot down under the sticks, Tovey adding the extras.
Di Bernardo promptly earned the lead back straight from the restart but the visiting fly-half failed with another two attempts to leave them with a slender one-point advantage at half-time.
And it didn’t take the Dragons long to get their noses in front with Harries ending his time at Rodney Parade with a try that was majestically crafted by Morgan.
The teen broke down the left, chipped over Loamanu and would have scored himself were it not for his winger winning the race.
Tovey’s well-judged conversion made it 17-11 but the fly-half wasn’t quite as accurate when presented with a huge overlap inside the Treviso 22, umming and ahhing before allowing the defence to get to Morgan.
The Dragons were bossing matters but failed to kill Treviso off.
And they paid the price when a pair of driving lineouts enabled Vosawai to power over down the left, although the horrid conversion meant that the Dragons held on to their lead.
But with eight minutes left Treviso were in front 19-17 and had a one-man advantage courtesy of a yellow card for offside against Lewis Evans inside the 22.
Nonetheless, the hosts dug deep and regained the lead courtesy of their much-maligned scrum, which earned a penalty for Tovey to sneak the win.
Dragons: H Amos, T Prydie, T Morgan, P Leach, W Harries, J Tovey, R Rees, P Price (O Evans 76), R Thomas, D Bell, A Coombs (captain), M Screech, L Evans (J Groves 79), N Cudd (J Groves 58-73), T Faletau.
Scorers: tries – T Morgan, W Harries; conversions – J Tovey (2); penalties – J Tovey (2)
Treviso: L McLean, L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, A Sgarbi, A Esposito, A Di Bernardo (M Berquist 79), F Semenzato, A De Marchi, L Ghiraldini (G Maistri 73), L Cittadini (I Fernandez-Rouyet 61), A Pavanello (captain, V Bernarbo 43), M Fuser, C Loamanu (J Ambrosini 78), P Derbyshire (D Budd 68), M Vosawai (A Pretichetti 77).
Scorers: tries – F Semenzato, M Vosawai; penalties – A Di Bernardo (3)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Attendance: 6, 026
Argus star man: Tyler Morgan