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PREVIEW: Champions hoping to dodge Dragons’ fire

Wednesday 6th April 2016

12:00 am (GMT)

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La meta di Twelvetrees e i calci di Laidlaw firmano il 19-13 e consegnano ai Cherry & White la seconda coppa dopo quella del 2006. Edimburgo

La meta di Twelvetrees e i calci di Laidlaw firmano il 19-13 e consegnano ai Cherry & White la seconda coppa dopo quella del 2006. Edimburgo

European Rugby Challenge Cup champions Gloucester Rugby are looking to move one step closer to defending their crown with a defeat of last season’s semi-finalists, Newport Gwent Dragons.

The Cherry and Whites are on a run of 15-matches unbeaten in the Challenge Cup after a perfect pool stage campaign and face the Welsh side on Saturday afternoon. But some familiar faces stand in their way of another semi-final. The Dragons, who beat regional rivals Cardiff Blues at this stage last season, are coached by former Gloucester captain and flanker Kingsley Jones.

The 10-cap Wales flanker skippered the Kingsholm club to a European Cup semi-final, but is now plotting his old side’s downfall. Jones will have to help his Dragons spring back to life after a run of seven narrow defeats in the Guinness Pro12. Gloucester have also suffered in recent weeks with four straight losses, despite an improved performance in their narrow defeat to Leicester Tigers.

The Dragons may be on a baron run of results, but they have one of the hottest try scoring talents in European rugby. Wales wing Hallam Amos has scored six tries in his last four games, including back-to-back braces against the Ospreys and Edinburgh rugby. His potent form has coincided with the return of Wales centre Tyler Morgan, who has suffered with injuries this season. Both are set to start at Kingsholm, though the clash may come too early for wing Ashton Hewitt and captain T.Rhys Thomas.

There will be no wing duel with Jonny May or Charlie Sharples, as both are ruled out with injury. Welsh qualified flanker Gareth Davies gave Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys a selection headache with a fine performance on his return from torn ankle ligaments.

And scrum-half Greig Laidlaw wants to give the ‘Shedheads’ a performance to remember on Saturday.

Laidlaw said: “It gives us huge momentum; we can take a lot from the performance against Leicester, we have to tidy up on a few areas and go into next week with real confidence back at Kingsholm. We owe the fans a big performance, some great travelling support came along to Leicester so we have to be positive.

“It's another massive game, we want to win that competition again but we won't look past the Dragons. I’ve watched bits and bobs of them and they have a fair few threats. They will be abrasive and look to disrupt things in and around the breakdown, be strong at the set-piece but we have to get our part right and get our game going.”

The Dragons are out to resurrect their season with a second semi-final appearance in as many seasons.

Head coach Jones said: “We want to go there and play some rugby, but we know Gloucester will want to do that too. They've lost four on the bounce and I’m not sure how they'll respond to that, it’s not really acceptable to lose at Kingsholm, the supporters really don’t like that.
They were beaten by Bath there, and if we get off to a good start, we’ll try and put them under pressure and see how they respond.

“Trinder is a great player out-wide. He is very similar to Tyler Morgan, he’s a dangerous player. They’ve got pace to burn and are a good, all-round side. They’ll be hurting from their recent defeats, but they have a good scrum, a good drive and they can play rugby, so it should be a good game.”

Match Facts

  • This will be the first meeting between the clubs in the Challenge Cup, although Gloucester were victorious in both the previous two encounters in the Champions Cup in 2009/10.
  • Gloucester are undefeated in their last five matches against Welsh regions in the Challenge Cup (W4,D1) although their most recent clash was a knockout win against Ebbw Vale in 2002.
  • Newport Gwent Dragons have won only one of their last four away fixtures in the Challenge Cup and they are yet to win a knockout match away from home (L2).
  • The Dragons have made the knockout stage in consecutive European campaigns for the first time.
  • After a 38-5 defeat at the hands of Sale in their final pool match the Dragons will be aiming to avoid back-to-back Challenge Cup losses for the first time since Round 5 in 2013/14.
  • The Dragons have won only one of six matches away from home in the Challenge Cup against Aviva Premiership opposition, their lone win coming last season against Newcastle Falcons (40-29).
  • The title holders kicked 17 successful penalty goals during the pool stage, more than any other side.
  • Rynard Landman of the Dragons has won 29 lineouts (including steals) so far this season, the second most of any player and the most of any player in a team that has reached the quarter-finals.
  • Only Montpellier's Wian Liebenberg has won more turnovers than Gloucester's Jacob Rowan (7) in the competition this season.

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REPORT: Dragons shock holders Gloucester

Saturday 9th April 2016

12:00 am (GMT)

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A late Charlie Davies try saw Newport Gwent Dragons defeat holders Gloucester to book a place in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-finals. - 09/04/2016 15:00

A late Charlie Davies try saw Newport Gwent Dragons defeat holders Gloucester to book a place in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-finals. - 09/04/2016 15:00

A late Charlie Davies try saw Newport Gwent Dragons defeat holders Gloucester to book a place in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-finals.

Davies touched down three minutes from time after Dorian Jones kicked 15 points. And the shock win at Kingsholm set up a semi-final clash with Montpellier later this month.

Ben Morgan and Steve McColl both crossed for Gloucester but it was not enough to save the reining champions’ 15-game winning run in the tournament.

It is the second year in a row the Welsh club will feature in the last four of the Challenge Cup and they deserved the win after leading 12-11 at half-time thanks to the boot of Jones.

The fly-half handed Dragons an early lead with the first of four penalties but Gloucester swiftly recovered with the game’s first try.

Mark Atkinson twice broke through before Matt Kvesic’s off-load handed Morgan a clear run to the corner on 14 minutes. Laidlaw missed the conversion but traded kicks with Jones to lead 8-6.

Dragons, who travelled without director of rugby Lyn Jones due to illness, then lost both half-backs in the space of three minutes.

Outside-half Jones briefly left the field after a head injury and scrum-half Sarel Pretorious was binned on 22 minutes for a dangerous tackle.

But it was Gloucester’s indiscipline that proved costly despite Laidlaw extending the lead to 11-6. Jones returned to the pitch but sliced a long-range effort and saw a second hit the post.

However Gloucester captain Laidlaw was binned for infringing at a ruck and successful kicks allowed Dragons to come from behind to lead at the break.

Pretorious capitalised on the absence of opposite number Laidlaw and immediately put Dragons on the front foot.
Wales internationals Hallam Amos and Tyler Morgan followed and Jones kicked a fifth penalty before Dragons full-back Carl Mayer landed a long-range kick on 55 minutes.

Dragons looked to have a strangle-hold on the game until a fortunate break allowed Gloucester to level the scores on 64 minutes.

James Hook lost control but the deflection bounced over the head of Pretorious and into the hands of McColl for an easy finish under the posts. Laidlaw converted to set up a tense final 16 minutes.

Jones scuffed a drop goal and when Laidlaw kicked a further penalty, Gloucester looked to be heading through.
Dragons mounted a final surge and were rewarded for turning down the chance to take the game to extra time when they kicked a penalty into touch.

Matthew Screech took the lineout five metres out, Dragons added extra men to the drive before replacement scrum-half Davies scampered over. Jones missed the conversion from out wide but their defence held out for an impressive win.  

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