Montgomery's class sparks Dragons

Gwent Dragons 20 Stade Français 12
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The Independent Online

Gwent Dragons continued their evolution with a morale-boosting victory over French giants, Stade Français, as their coach Mike Ruddock - among the front-runners for the forthcoming Wales job - continues to turn his self-proclaimed "rejects'' into an industrious unit.

Already fourth in the Celtic League, the new Welsh region overcame a powerful Stade Français, who have already beaten Leicester, by two tries to nil and in the process opened up Pool One of the Heineken Cup.

Stade Français have struggled for form in Europe since losing to Leicester in 2001. And yesterday their flair was dampened by the Gwent drizzle and a feisty Dragons pack who were willing match their imposing counterparts.

The conditions and the battle for supremacy resulted in a midfield tussle for the first half, punctuated by occasional glimpses of creativity from Percy Montgomery and Agustin Pichot. Montgomery and Diego Dominguez exchanged a penalty apiece before the stalemate was broken in 36th minute by Gwent's Hal Luscombe.

Stade Français were busy appealing for a block by Montgomery as the ball progressed down the back-line from a scrum but Luscombe, and the referee, ignored their pleas to slide over under Mirco Bergamasco's tackle.

The French side's frustration festered and boiled over as tempers flared during a red-blooded six-minute period early in the second half. Stade were reduced to 14 men when Uruguayan prop Pablo Lemoine was sent off for head-butting former Bristol team-mate Ben Breeze, and has subsequently been banned for six weeks. No 8 Ross Beattie received a yellow card for use of the boot five minutes later. Remy Martin and Gareth Baber soon joined him in the sin-bin following another brawl.

Those incidents left 13 facing 13 and the Dragons 10-6 ahead with the chance to preserve their unbeaten home record. Montgomery made that look even more likely with a neat piece of footwork that created the second, crucial try. He trapped the ball with his foot on the touchline, chipped ahead and then charged down Ian Vass's clearance. Andy Marinos won the foot race to score and lift the roof off Rodney Parade.

Gwent's indiscipline allowed Dominguez to claw back two penalties before a drop goal from Lee Jarvis settled the result.

Gwent Dragons 20 Stade Français 12

Half-time: 10-3 Attendance: 5,782

Gwent Dragons: P Montgomery; N Brew (G Arassa, 42), H Luscombe, A Marinos (capt), B Breeze; L Jarvis, G Baber; A Black, P Young, C Anthony (R Snow, 46), I Gough (P Sidoli, 50), M Owen, J Ringer, R Beattie (S van Rensburg, 80), J Forster.

Stade Français: I Corleto; T Lombard, S Glas, B Liebenberg, M Bergamasco (C Dominici, 50); D Dominguez, A Pichot (I Vas, 23); P Lemoine, B August (capt) (M Blin, 54), P de Villiers (S Marconnet, 50), D Auradou, A Marchois, C Moni (P de Villiers, 54), P Tabacco, R Martin.

Referee: T Spreadbury (England).