Hodgson shines to douse Dragons' fire

Newport-Gwent 11 Sale 38
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The Independent Online

Hodgson scored the opening try and kicked all the goals as the Dragons' impressive home record took a battering at the hands of the Guinness Premiership front-runners.

The Sharks have won two out of two in the Heineken Cup, and they are looking a good bet to make the playoffs. They face tough away matches against Munster and Castres Olympique, but the club's director of rugby Philippe Saint Andre is more than happy with nine out of the first 10 points available.

"We had a decent lead at half-time, but we knew we couldn't rest on our laurels," Hodgson said. "We managed to put a few things together, and managed to make it look better than it was. I thought our forwards were superb tonight. We're very pleased with the bonus point - especially as we were playing away."

The club's captain Jason Robinson added: "We targeted this game. We knew they would come out strongly in the second half - like they did against Castres last week - but we're happy with two out of two."

The Dragons had suffered an injury blow just prior to the kick-off when the Wales lock Ian Gough was forced to withdraw from their starting line-up because of a rib problem. Peter Sidoli replaced Gough, while the Sharks preferred hooker Sebastien Bruno to Andy Titterrell, while French recruit Daniel Larrechea returned at full-back.

Larrachea scuffed an early chance at goal, but Hodgson - the hero of last week's win over Munster - charged down a poor Ceri Sweeney clearance to score the opening try and added the extras via the upright.

An excellent pass from Robinson gave Mark Cueto an easy finish in the corner, and Hodgson's sideline conversion added a few more questions to the Dragons' proud home record.

Warlow chipped away at the lead with a second penalty goal, but the Sharks' third try came from Larrachea, who joined the line at the perfect angle to score untouched. Hodgson added the conversion, and then the Dragons' night went from bad to miserable when Sidoli was yellow-carded for a professional foul.

The match became 15 against 13 shortly after halftime when the Dragons' flanker Andew Hall was sin-binned for a lineout infringement, but that meant nothing when Gareth Wyatt, the most under-rated winger in Welsh rugby, scored a superb kick-and-chase try.

By any standards it was a fine try - but completely against the run of play. Hodgson edged his side back in front with a penalty goal after the centre Elvis Seveali'i had smashed through the Dragons' midfield, and the fly-half's break set up the replacement lock Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe to score the bonus-point try. Seveali'i added a fifth and Hodgson notched his fifth conversion.

Newport-Gwent: Try: Wyatt; Penalties: Warlow 2.

Sale: Tries: Hodgson, Cueto, Larrechea, Lobbe, Seveali'i; Conversions: Hodgson 5; Penalty: Hodgson.

Newport-Gwent: Morgan, Wyatt, Tuipulotu, Sweeney (Bryant, 80), Breeze (Fussell, 50), Warlow, Cooper, Maddocks (Black, 50), S. Jones, R. Thomas, Sidoli, Charteris, Hall, Forster (Ringer, 68), Owen.

Sale: Larrechea (Ripol, 46), Cueto, Taylor (Todd, 77), Seveali'i, Robinson, Hodgson, Martens (Courrent, 66), Sheridan, Bruno (Titterrell, 53), Turner (Coutts, 73), Jones, Schofield (Lobbe, 57), White, Lund, Chabal.

Referee: C Berdos (France).