Michael Owen, returning to the fray, and the Springbok giant Percy Montgomery wrecked the Borders' quest to kick-start their Celtic League campaign at Netherdale last night. Owen marked his comeback from a long injury lay-off by claiming two tries, while Montgomery bagged a touchdown and a series of crucial kicks to make sure of victory for the Dragons.
It took them only one minute to score, the full-back Montgomery confidently slotting a penalty. The first try came almost immediately as the Wales lock Owen finished off a searing break by centre Hal Luscombe. Montgomery added the conversion and then kicked another penalty when the struggling home side illegally pulled down a Dragons jumper at a line-out.
Borders hit back positively to mount a string of attacks, but their sharpness failed to match up to their slick build-up work. And they paid dearly for not snapping up their chances by giving away another touchdown in the 17th minute, Montgomery darting over with ease, then converting.
Borders soaked up more pressure before rallying to end the half on a brighter note. Bruce Douglas was in the right place at the right time to cross the line in the wake of a series of short penalties. Gareth Morton added the goal. Then Morton was on target again with an offside penalty from 30 metres to give his team a glimmer of hope.
Borders suffered another setback just after the restart, however, as Montgomery completed his trio of penalties. But again they responded in style to stay in touch with an opportunist try by Morton, claiming the vital touch after chasing Clark Laidlaw's chip to the line.
Dragons roared back to stem the home surge with the impressive Owen giving the Welsh selectors a timely pre-Six Nations nudge by powering through for his second touchdown. Montgomery was wide with the conversion, but made quick amends by adding another penalty. Then in stoppage time, he rounded off the rout by converting Sione Tuipulotu's try.
Borders: Tries Morton, Douglas; Conversion Morton; Penalty Morton. Gwent Dragons: Tries Montgomery, Owen 2, Tuipuluto; Conversions Montgomery 3; Penalties Montgomery 4.
Borders: Morton; Moir, Stuart, S Paterson, Murray; Laidlaw, Cusiter; Todd, Ford, Douglas, MacLeod, Stewart, Feather, Sititi, Kane.
Gwent Dragons: Montgomery; Asara, Luscombe, Winn, Breeze; Jarvis, Baber; Black, Young, Anthony, Owen, Ringer, Beattie, Pattison, Forster.
Referee: S McDowell (Ireland).
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