Munster survive Dragons scare
March 3, 2012
Felix Jones scored late on for Munster
© Getty Images
Munster outgunned a fired-up Dragons side 24-14 at Rodney Parade on Saturday to cement their RaboDirect PRO12 play-off ambitions.
The Irish province leapt over the Ospreys into second and stretched away from the chasing pack in the race for the top four thanks to a late surge in Newport.
The visitors scored 15 points in the last 12 minutes to secure the win and ensure the Dragons did not get a losing bonus point for their efforts.
Munster, without a sizeable international contingent, settled quickly and opened the scoring with a third-minute penalty from fly-half Ian Keatley, but the Dragons worked their way into the game and deservedly levelled thanks to a penalty from Lewis Robling on 17 minutes.
The hosts were soon in front when a marvellous 50-metre jinking run by fullback Will Harries allowed centre Ashley Smith to dive over to make it 8-3. However, the conversion was wide and it was the Irish visitors that soon got their noses back in front thanks to a pair of Keatley penalties.
Back came the Dragons and Robling knocked over another penalty to edge the hosts in front in an error-strewn encounter, an 11-9 lead that they held at the break.
The hosts were having the better of things in possession and territory but were unable to break clear of a resilient Munster side. The Dragons suffered a blow when centre Andy Tuilagi limped off the field to be replaced by 17-year-old Jack Dixon, who last year became the youngest player to turn out in Welsh regional rugby in an Anglo-Welsh Cup win against Wasps.
The teenager nearly had a dream introduction to the Pro12 when he featured prominently in a dashing 60-metre move that was ended agonisingly close to the line.
Once again Munster had escaped, but they were under severe pressure when scrum-half Tomas O'Leary was sin-binned on 58 minutes after referee Carlo Damasco got fed up with the visitors infringing at the breakdown.
The Dragons kicked a penalty to the corner and laid siege to the Irish province's line. Munster defended heroically and next time the Dragons earned a penalty they went for the posts with Robling successfully making it 14-9 with 15 minutes remaining.
It was not a lead that they held for long. Replacement Denis Hurley went flying through a gaping hole in midfield and the ball was worked wide from the next phase for fellow wing Luke O'Dea to dash over down the right.
Replacement fly-half Scott Deasy missed the conversion but was accurate minutes later when presented with a 40-metre penalty to put the visitors 17-14 up with 72 minutes on the clock. It was game over with five minutes left when full-back Felix Jones snaffled a loose ball in midfield to race over under the posts, Deasy adding the routine extras for a hard-earned win.
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