4:58pm Saturday 19th October 2013
By Chris Kirwan
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons’ hopes of making the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup suffered a blow after they were overpowered by Bath at the Rec.
The West Country outfit recorded a 26-10 win and denied their visitors a bonus point to take control of Pool Two.
The English outfit enjoy back-to-back games against Italian minnows Mogliano in December so should be on 18 points by the time they head to Rodney Parade.
That leaves the Dragons, who are on five points, desperately needing to bag a pair of wins against Bordeaux Begles to keep the heat on Bath.
Lyn Jones’ side were right in the game when they headed to the changing rooms on level terms at half-time.
However, 16 unanswered points after the break made it an afternoon to forget for a side that travelled over the Severn Bridge with high hopes.
The Dragons, buoyed by a fine start to the RaboDirect Pro12, headed for Bath looking for their first away win against English opposition in European competition since their 2003 inception.
They fielded a strong side, their notable absentees being teenage centre Jack Dixon and hookers Rhys Thomas and Sam Parry, while the hosts shuffled their side with a West County derby against Gloucester looming.
The Dragons suffered a nightmare start, struggling to come to terms with Bath’s physical and direct approach.
The hosts got their reward for early dominance in the seventh minute when, after a charge by Samoan prop Anthony Perenise, the ball was worked wide to the right for wing Richard Lane to cross.
Tom Heathcote added the extras but it was soon level-pegging when Lions number eight Toby Faletau raced over from 45 metres after being given the ball in space down the left, fly-half Jason Tovey expertly converting.
The Dragons’ belief subsequently soared and with pesky scrum-half Richie Rees to the fore they disrupted the Pool Two favourites, who began to look a little ragged as the rain poured down.
Scotland fly-half Heathcote knocked the English side back in front only for Tovey to level and it was the Dragons that finished the half on top.
However, it was Bath that came out the stronger and they put the squeeze on up front.
Their pack earned a pair of penalties for Heathcote and the hosts led 16-10 going into the final quarter.
And things took a turn for the worse when flanker Lewis Evansm, who had been excellent, was sent to the sin bin for a breakdown offence.
Not only did Heathcote stretch the lead with another penalty but he added the extras when ex-Scarlets flanker Mat Gilbert was the beneficiary of a driving lineout.
That was the game as the Dragons were left to reflect on yet another joyless game on their travels.
Bath scorers: tries – R Lane, M Gilbert; conversions – T Heathcote (2); penalties – T Heathcote (4)
Dragons scorers: try – T Faletau; conversion – J Tovey; penalty – J Tovey
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