Dragons secure Heineken Cup berth
May 28, 2009
The Dragons' James Arlidge converted all six tries against their Italian rivals
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Newport Gwent Dragons will play in next season's Heineken Cup after beating Calvisano 42-17 in their play-off clash at the Centro Sportivo San Michele.
The Magners League side outscored their Italian Super 10 rivals six tries tries to two to book their place in European club rugby's premier competition. Prop Adam Black scored twice for the Welsh region while Richard Fussell, Luke Charteris, Ashley Smith and Lewis Evans all followed while fly-half James Arlidge converted all six.
Gonzalo Garcia crossed for Calvisano to offer a glimmer of hope before half-time and Valerio Bernabo scored late on but they will play in the European Challenge Cup next season, a huge comedown for the perennial flag-bearers for Italian rugby in the Heineken Cup. They were forced into this play-off for the first time after losing their semi-final of the Italian Championship to rivals Benetton Treviso. However they wasted no time in taking the lead through fly-half Gerard Fraser inside three minutes.
Arlidge saw his first attempt at goal rebound off the post as optimism grew. However, that was snuffed out after just eight minutes when Fussell scored in the left-hand corner following an impressive attack through the Dragons forwards, sparked by Wales prop Rhys Thomas that Arlidge converted.
The Dragons doubled their lead within five minutes when flanker Dan Lydiate deflected Fraser's clearance. Hoani MacDonald spotted Charteris out wide in acres of space and the giant Wales lock brushed past David Dal Maso with ease on 13 minutes. The Dragons struggled for confidence all season but were full of running as they sniffed the chance to put the tie beyond doubt by half-time and two more tries did just that.
Skipper Tom Willis went close before Smith strolled through on 25 minutes from a well-timed flat pass from Arlidge after Macdonald stole a Calvisano lineout. Black grabbed his first score six minutes before half-time after following up a powerful burst from fellow prop Thomas, though there was still time for Calvisano to finally show what they were capable of.
The forwards, led by captain and Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, made in-roads before centre Garcia barged through Fussell to score. Fraser converted to trim the Dragons' lead to 28-10, though he saw a long range penalty strike the post on the stroke of half-time.
The second half failed to produce the same number of tries as Calvisano sought a route back, though they struggled to get past a resilient Dragons defence. Instead a blunder in the Calvisano defence allowed Evans to pick up and crash over.
Gareth Wyatt saw a try ruled out for a foot in touch but moments later, Black drove over for his second and to put the tie beyond doubt, despite Bernabo's late effort.
Calvisano: Luke Mclean; Winston Mafi, Matteo Pratichetti, Gonzalo Garcia, Ludovico Nitoglia; Gerard Fraser, Paul Griffen; Alistair Mckenzie, Leonardo Ghiraldini (capt), Hoani Tui, Peter Sidoli, Cameron Treloar, David Dal Maso, Aaron Persico, Alessandro Zanni.
Replacements: Ben Evans, Tommaso D'Apice, Valerio Bernabo, Nicola Cattina, Pino Patelli, Giovanni Raineri, Paolo Buso.
Dragons: Jason Tovey; Gareth Wyatt, Rory Sidey, Ashley Smith, Richard Fussell; James Arlidge, Wayne Evans; Adam Black, Tom Willis (capt), Rhys Thomas, Hoani MacDonald, Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate, Craig Hill, Lewis Evans.
Replacements: Steve Jones, Nigel Hall, Grant Webb, Andrew Hall, Alex Walker, Aled Brew, Martyn Thomas.
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