Challenge Cup: Newcastle Falcons 29-40 Dragons
|Newcastle Falcons (3) 29|
|Tries: Socino, Harris, Welch, Saull Cons: Catterick 2, Clegg Pen: Catterick|
|Newport Gwent Dragons (35) 40|
|Tries: Morgan, Penalty try, Coombs, Amos 2, Landman Cons: Prydie 5|
Newport Gwent Dragons sealed their place in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a remarkable bonus-point win away at Newcastle.
The visitors raced into a 35-3 lead at half-time with tries from Tyler Morgan, Andrew Coombs, Hallam Amos, Rynard Landman and a penalty try.
Juan Pablo Socino, Chris Harris, Will Welch and Andy Saull crossed for Falcons after the restart.
But a second Amos score helped Dragons move five points clear in Pool Three.
Newcastle could still finish level on points with Dragons if they claim a bonus-point victory against winless Bucharest Wolves in next week's final round of pool games.
But Dragons would still top Pool Three as their head-to-head record against Falcons is better after only losing 26-30 in October's encounter at Rodney Parade.
While their place in the last eight is now assured, Dragons can seal a home quarter-final if they beat Stade Francais next weekend.
Having claimed back-to-back bonus-point victories against Bucharest Wolves in December, the Dragons entered this match one point ahead of Newcastle at the top of Pool Three.
The Gwent region made three changes from their Pro12 defeat to Ospreys, with fly-half Dorian Jones replacing Jason Tovey, hooker Hugh Gustafson in for Elliot Dee and flanker James Thomas taking the place of Wales' Taulupe Faletau.
By contrast, Newcastle made 10 changes from the team which thumped London Welsh in the English Premiership the previous weekend.
After Tom Catterick's penalty had put Newcastle in front, Dragons centre Morgan dummied just outside the hosts' 22 and glided clear for an excellent try converted by Tom Prydie.
Despite struggling against the Newcastle scrum, the visitors extended their lead with a demonstration of their power up front.
With Falcons flanker Richard Mayhew sin-binned for not rolling away as Morgan bore down on the try line, the Dragons kicked to the corner.
After the rolling maul was brought down illegally, referee John Lacey awarded the away side a penalty try.
Their third score also came from a line-out, with the pack rumbling over for Coombs to touch down.
The match was barely 25 minutes old when the Dragons sealed their bonus point, as Morgan set up Amos for a tight finish in the corner.
Taken aback by their opponents' torrent of tries, Newcastle fell further behind when Amos collected a kick and passed to Landman, who cantered to the line to give the Dragons a 35-3 lead at the interval.
The only half-time change Newcastle made was to replace Tom Penny with Socino, and it paid instant dividends as the Argentinian barged his way over three minutes after the restart.
That sparked the home crowd into life and appeared to give Newcastle hope as they crossed for a second try soon afterwards with Harris chasing a kick through and touching down.
If the Dragons' nerves were jangling with their advantage reduced to 35-17, fears of a Falcons fightback were eased when Amos scored the visitors' sixth try with a searing run down the touchline.
Replacement Welch forced his way over from close range for Newcastle's third try, and another rolling maul from the hosts led to McGuigan's bonus point-securing fourth.
The Falcons' attempts to claim a second bonus point by reducing their deficit to seven points or less were in vain, however, as the Dragons steered their way to a memorable victory.
Newcastle: Hammersley; Penny, Powell, Harris, Tait; Catterick, Tipuna; Rogers, McGuigan, Brookes; Robinson, Thompson; Mayhew, Saull (capt), York.
Replacements: Hawkins, Vickers, Fry, Witty, Welch, Davies, Clegg, Socino.
Dragons: Prydie; Pewtner, Morgan, Dixon, Amos; Jones, Evans; Price, Gustafson, Harris; Coombs, Landman (capt); Thomas, Cudd, Evans.
Replacements: Dee, Evans, Fairbrother, Hill, Faletau, Jones, O'Brien, Jones.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Touch Judges: Andy Brace (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
Fourth Official: John Meredith (England)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Citing Commissioner: Roberto Carra (Italy)