Stand-in Walder guides Falcons through the rain

Newport-Gwent Dragons 6 - Newcastle 10
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The Independent Online

While Newcastle hurried away to catch their plane, and ponder whether their American Redwood of a lock, Luke Gross, deserved a four-week ban arising from his fracas with Ian Gough, the locals observed the ritual of a pint and a chinwag.

While Newcastle hurried away to catch their plane, and ponder whether their American Redwood of a lock, Luke Gross, deserved a four-week ban arising from his fracas with Ian Gough, the locals observed the ritual of a pint and a chinwag.

In the welcome warmth of the old committee room Dai Watkins, the former Newport and Wales fly-half and captain,lavished praise on a Newcastle No 10 who would not have taken part had Jonny Wilkinson been fit. "Dave Walder played the conditions beautifully," said Watkins, now a director of the one-year-old Dragons' region. "Wilkinson is an icon of the game, and I wouldn't want to be disrespectful, but in my opinion he is less of a natural than Walder. If Wilkinson had been out there, Newcastle would have lost." We will never know, of course, and nor will Newcastle's director of rugby, Rob Andrew, care after digging a valuable away win from the quasi-bog by the Usk. What is certain is that Andrew has often had to turn to Walder in Wilkinson's absence and has hardly ever regretted it.

"Jonny is just a part of a squad that is growing and getting better," said Andrew of the injured England captain. "Dave is as good as anyone around. He was sensational; his kicking out of hand was tremendous."

The knee that Gross brought up into the face of Gough during a second half set-to was a lot less praiseworthy, though Andrew maintained he would take the permitted 72 hours to consider appealing the suspension. There is a 50-hour window for teams to submit written complaints to the independent citing officer, which may yet see action against Newcastle's Phil Dowson or the Dragons' Michael Owen for punches apparently picked up on television.

The Dragons' head coach, Chris Anderson, would not concede that the air his side initially gave the ball was a mistake in the monsoon. As he pointed out, the tactics would have paid off if the Dragons had scored from either the line-out or the scrum they had in the Newcastle 22 when it was 3-3 in the first quarter. Instead, Newcastle snatched the only try after 38 minutes.

Newport Dragons: Penalties Sweeney 2. Newcastle: Try McCarthy; Conversions Burke; Penalty Burke.

Newport Dragons: K Morgan; G Wyatt, P Montgomery, S Tuipulotu, H Luscombe (N Brew, 70); C Sweeney, G Cooper (G Baber, 80); R Snow (A Black, 57), S Jones (J Richards, 70), R Thomas (C Anthony, 57), I Gough, M Owen, J Ringer, R Bryan (R Beattie, 70), J Forster (capt).

Newcastle: M Burke; T May, J Noon, M Tait, M Stephenson; D Walder, J Grindal (H Charlton, 52); I Peel (capt; M Hurter, 40; Isaacson, 75), J Isaacson (M Thompson, 40), M Ward (Peel, 52), L Gross, S Grimes, M McCarthy (S Sititi, 59), P Dowson, C Charvis.

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).

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