Newcastle 29 Newport Gwent 24: Newcastle hold nerve to slay fiery Thomas and his Dragons

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The Independent Online

This was a helter-skelter EDF Energy Cup match played on Saturday evening at Kingston Park. It would not have been if Rhys Thomas had been shown a red card when he sought a confrontation with his opponents and lashed out at several Newcastle players. But the referee, James Jones, allowed the tight-head prop to remain on the field and he went on to score two tries to haul the visitors into the game.

Thomas's tries came in the second half of a game, furious in the exchanges, full of mistakes, but with the proper result. Both teams earned a bonus point.

There were eight tries in all, four to each side, though when Newport had two men sent to the sin-bin – Joe Bearman and Andrew Hall, in the 25th and 29th minutes – they were down to 13 men for six minutes. Had Thomas been shown at least a yellow card, Newcastle would have been home and dry.

And yet, they relaxed and allowed Martyn Thomas to intercept Lee Dickson's long pass and, though he was chased to the posts by Mathew Tait, that made it 17-7 instead of 24-0.

Steve Jones – a Welshman – had held Toby Flood's backhand pass to score Newcastle's first try. Brent Wilson claimed number two, both were converted by Flood and the Falcons were cruising. From there it became a dogfight.

Paul Turner, the Newport coach, was unequivocal: "We made too many errors and though we played well after the break, we didn't finish it off. You cannot afford to make mistakes as we did."

Newcastle's hopes were lifted when Ollie Phillips took them further ahead. His barging try was typical, though Flood's conversion failed. From 22-7 it went to 22-19 as Rhys Thomas scored for Newport. The scrum-half, Andrew Williams, crossed for the Dragons and his touchdown was converted by Aled Thomas.

Flood had departed to be replaced by Tait's younger brother, Alex. So when John Rudd crossed for a try, the first try-scorer, Steve Jones, converted to make it 29-19. Newcastle had been pressing hard, but they again dropped their guard, allowing Rhys Thomas to cross for a second time.

For the final minutes of what turned out to be a momentous contest, Newport seeing an unlikely and undeserved victory, bashed away at the Newcastle line, but to no avail. With the Geordies top of Pool A, they will visit Wasps in the final group game on the last weekend of the month.

Newcastle: Tries S Jones, B Wilson, O Phillips, J Rudd; Conversions T Flood 2, S Jones; Penalties: T Flood. Newport Gwent Dragons: Tries Martyn Thomas, Rhys Thomas 2, A Williams; Conversions Aled Thomas 2.

Newcastle: T May; O Phillips, M Tait, S Jones, J Rudd; T Flood (A Tait, 48), L Dickson (H Charlton, 64); J McDonnell (capt; J Golding, 51), M Thompson (A Long, 51), D Wilson (J McDonnell, 71), A Perry (B Woods, 68), M Sorenson, G Parling, B Wilson, R Winter.

Newport Gwent Dragons: Martyn Thomas; P Emerick, R Gomer-Davies, G Maule, R Mustoe; Aled Thomas, A Williams (Wayne Evans 67); H Gustafson (A Black, 61), B Daly (K Crawford, 61), Rhys Thomas, A Hall, P Sidoli, J Bearman, C Charvis (capt), M Owen.

Referee: James Jones (Wales).

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