Robinson’s boot douses Dragons’ fire

Gloucester 19 Dragons 17
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The Independent Online

Nicky Robinson rescued Gloucester with a late penalty that extinguished an impressive Dragons display in the Heineken Cup. The Wales international fly-half kicked 14 points, but his match-winning strike did not arrive until five minutes from time.

The Dragons had been on course for a famous win – their first in 11 attempts against English opposition in the Heineken Cup. They outscored Gloucester two to one on tries after fly-half James Arlidge and No 8 Joe Bearman claimed first-half touchdowns.

But Robinson, a summer signing from Cardiff Blues, proved the difference, landing four penalties and converting flanker Akapusi Qera's 25th-minute try. Robinson kept his nerve when several Gloucester players cracked under pressure, yet qualification for the last eight from Pool Two remains open to question. They have to play French giants Biarritz home and away, in addition to visiting the Dragons and Glasgow, suggesting the European campaign could prove a hard slog.

Gloucester, with just two Premiership wins behind them this season, ultimately did enough to start lifting the gloom during a season that has already seen them have four players banned. "I have been very critical during the past three weeks, and there does come a time when you are beating the same drum," said head coach Bryan Redpath "We dug in, and we can take some credit for that."

The Dragons were combative in all areas, yet they fell behind after 25 minutes when Gloucester juggernaut Lesley Vainikolo blasted through two weak midfield tackles, enabling him to free centre Tim Molenaar, who marked his European debut by finding Qera with a scoring pass.

The Dragons drew level when Arlidge sliced through a gap for a try he also converted. Gloucester knew they were in a dogfight, and with the Dragons' confidence growing, a second Welsh score arrived, this time by Bearman, who was the beneficiary of a deft pass from scrum-half Wayne Evans.

A second Arlidge conversion took the Dragons 14-7 clear, but Gloucester hit back with two Robinson penalties, before he edged them ahead with a superb 48-metre strike. Arlidge struck back to give the Dragons a 17-16 advantage. But another Robinson penalty edged a tense affair.

*Two penalties each from Peter Hewat and Ryan Lamb gave London Irish a surprise 12-6 away win at Heineken Cup holders Leinster last night.

Gloucester: Tries Qera; Conversions Robinson; Penalties Robinson (4). Newport-Gwent Dragons: Tries Arlidge, Bearman; Conversions Arlidge (2); Penalties Arlidge.

Gloucester: T Voyce; C Sharples (J May, 72), J Simpson-Daniel, T Molenaar, L Vainikolo; N Robinson, R Lawson (D Lewis, 67); A Dickinson (P Capdevielle, 58), S Lawson, G Somerville (P Doran-Jones, 71); D Attwood, A Brown; A Strokosch, A Qera, G Delve (capt, A Hazell, 71).

Newport-Gwent Dragons: J Tovey (M Thomas, 52); A Brew, T Riley, A Smith, R Fussell; J Arlidge (S Connor, 75), W Evans (D Lee, 69); A McKenzie (P Bracken, 40), S Jones, N Hall (H Gustafson, 40), R Sidoli, L Charteris, D Lydiate (H MacDonald, 64), G Thomas, J Bearman.

Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).