Dragons under pressure to make it a fine start with Zebre success
8:01am Friday 4th October 2013 in Sport
AFTER making a promising start to the season Newport Gwent Dragons will look to told to finish the job by dealing with a spirited Zebre outfit at Rodney Parade this evening.
The Dragons finished one from bottom of the RaboDirect Pro12 last season after winning just six games.
They are well on their way to bettering that tally thanks to engrossing home victories against Ulster and the Scarlets.
The spirit and determination shown by the players in those successes has led to a feel-good factor at Rodney Parade – but things are in the balance.
If they can make it a hat-trick of Rodney Parade successes against their Italian visitors tonight then it will be a job well done before a fortnight of Amlin Challenge Cup action.
Fail to record a victory and it would put a dampener on the progress made under the new management team headed up by director of rugby Lyn Jones.
It was a one-sided romp when Zebre headed to Rodney Parade last season but the Dragons expect a much stiffer test ths time.
The region recorded just one four-try bonus point last season – against the Italian whipping boys on opening day.
They romped into a 34-6 half-time lead with scores by Dan Evans (2), Andy Tuilagi and Will Harries before Zebre settled to concede a solitary penalty after the break.
Things won't be so easy this evening.
Zebre are in buoyant mood after notching their first ever win when turning over Cardiff Blues on their own patch last month, a success they backed up by earning a losing bonus point against leaders Glasgow.
"You can see that they are a different kettle of fish this season," said Dragons wing Adam Hughes. "They are a lot more organised and have made a couple of signings that are making a difference.
"That win against Cardiff Blues will have been huge for them, it will have lifted them massively and they will be coming here to get something.
"We put a lot of points on them last season and they will want to prove a point. It's going to be a tough game and it's going to be physical.
"We are treating this game in the same way as we would if it was Leinster."
Victory tonight would ensure the Dragons head into European action ahead of Cardiff Blues and would lift them above the Scarlets into the top half of the table ahead of their home fixture against leaders Glasgow tomorrow.
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