Munster boss Penney pays tribute to Dragons' 'random' defence

Campaign Series: Keith Earls is tackled by Robert Sidoli and Nic Cudd (2777302) Keith Earls is tackled by Robert Sidoli and Nic Cudd (2777302)

MUNSTER coach Rob Penney is glad to have come through unscathed after two tough encounters with Newport Gwent Dragons' testing 'random' defence, writes Chris Kirwan.

The RaboDirect Pro12 table-toppers triumphed 23-9 when the sides met in Cork in September and made it a double with a hard-earned 18-14 win at Rodney Parade last Friday.

Munster failed to cross the whitewash but sneaked the spoils thanks to six penalties from the boot of fly-half Ian Keatley.

The Irish province's coach paid tribute to the way that their hosts hustled and harried them in Newport.

"The Dragons offer some unique challenges when you are attacking them and we took a while to settle, that's a credit to them," said Penney.

"Their line speed and the shape that they have... there's almost a randomness to what they do in defence.

"They obviously know what they are doing but it's not easy to work out when you are under that sort of heat out in the middle.

"It takes a bit of time to adjust when you don't get that sort of pressure every day."

It was the Dragons' first clean sheet of the season but they have shored up a shaky defence.

In 2012/13 they shipped 72 tries (average 3.3 per game) and 589 points (average 26.8) to have the Pro12's worst record.

This term their line has been crossed 13 times in nine games (average 1.4) and they have conceded 159 points (average 17.7).

The Dragons remain in seventh place in the table but the weekend results have tightened things up below the title challengers.

The sixth-placed Scarlets are a point ahead of Lyn Jones' side after being overpowered 36-19 by Leinster at the Royal Dublin Society, although Pontypool native Gareth Maule did cross for a try on his 100th appearance for the region.

Edinburgh are on the rise in eighth thanks to a crushing 43-10 win against bottom club Connacht while Cardiff Blues picked up two points at Treviso.

Fly-half Gareth Davies kicked 16 points including a late penalty in a 26-26 draw in Italy, although Phil Davies' side led 20-9 at the break.

The Blues are the bottom Welsh region, three back on the Dragons and four behind the Scarlets.

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