European Challenge Cup: Dragons 39-43 Northampton Saints - Tom Collins seals thrilling win

Dragons' Jamie Roberts challenges JJ Tonks of Northampton
Dragons centre Jamie Roberts challenges Northampton back-row JJ Tonks
European Rugby Challenge Cup: Dragons v Northampton
Dragons (22) 39
Tries: Hewitt 2, Screech, S Davies, Brown Cons: S Davies 4 Pens: S Davies 2
Northampton: (10) 43
Tries: Naiyaravoro 2, Sleightholme, Mitchell, Harrison, Collins Cons: Grayson 5 Pen: Grayson

Tom Collins' late try saw Northampton Saints snatch a thrilling European Challenge Cup tie away at Dragons.

Helped by two Ashton Hewitt tries, Dragons had romped into a 22-3 lead, with Matthew Screech, Sam Davies and Leon Brown adding later scores.

But Saints matched them, with Taqele Naiyaravoro, twice, Ollie Sleightholme, Alex Mitchell, Teimana Harrison all crossing before Collins' final blow.

Northampton's reward is a home quarter-final against Harlequins or Ulster.

The win was all the more remarkable as Saints had lost three men to the sin-bin to Dragons' one during the game.

Dragons' first opportunity came when James Grayson - continuing at 10 in the injury absence of Wales fly-half Dan Biggar - spilled a steepling kick from opposite number Sam Davies.

The Northampton pack buckled from the resulting scrum, allowing Davies to draw first blood for the hosts from the resulting penalty kick.

Dragons - back at Rodney Parade after pitch problems that had forced them to play home games at other Welsh stadia - struck again when Jamie Roberts fooled the rush defence, dinking a delicate grubber through for wing Hewitt to dab down in the left corner, with Davies converting.

After that early shock, Northampton worked the phases steadily upfield and the pressure earned a penalty for Grayson to get the English side on the board.

But the visitors then had Sleightholme sin-binned for a cynical tug-back off the ball on Jordan Williams, running in support of a rampaging Ross Moriarty.

It turned out to be a futile foul, as Screech still managed to get across the line - Davies again converting after TMO Patrick Dellac had given his blessing to the try.

A third Dragons try followed before half-time as Hewitt showed great strength to force his way over for an unconverted try, although the wing suffered what appeared to be a worrying knee injury in the process and was forced off.

Northampton crucially regained a foothold in the game before half-time, as giant wing Naiyaravoro exploited some defensive confusion in the Welsh defence to go under the posts for a converted try that cut Dragons' advantage to 22-10 at the break.

Naiyaravoro sparks Saints

Wing Taqele Naiyaravoro was at the heart of Northampton's fightback
Wing Taqele Naiyaravoro was at the heart of Northampton's fightback

Saints reduced their deficit again soon after the restart when Naiyaravoro burst out of his own 22 and a flowing move resulted in Sleightholme avoiding the last defenders to go over in the right corner for a converted try.

Davies' second penalty edged Dragons away again before Northampton lost two more men to the sin-bin in quick succession, lock Alex Coles for coming in at the side and back-row JJ Tonks for a late hit on Davies.

Northampton defended heroically but eventually Davies darted over after an attacking scrum, converting his own score.

Remarkably the 13 men hit back with a try of their own, although it owed much to Naiyaravoro evening the odds somewhat by tying in four defenders, before scrum-half Mitchell showed vision and pace to break down the left for a try that Grayson converted to leave Saints 24-32 behind.

Northampton were back to full strength for the final quarter, but still conceded a fifth try as replacement prop Brown went over from close range, Davies converting once more.

The breathless scoring continued as Saints refused to buckle, with skipper Harrison scoring an unconverted try that left the visitors 10 points behind.

Dragons had to play the final 10 minutes with 14 men after hooker Elliot Dee was shown yellow for slowing the ball at a ruck.

Northampton sensed an opportunity and after having a series of drives repelled, fashioned space on the left for Naiyaravoro to claim his second try, Grayson adding a pressure conversion.

The momentum shift was complete when, with six minutes remaining, replacement Collins hacked through and had just enough pace to beat Davies to the line for a converted try that put Saints ahead for the first time in the match - and sealed what had seemed at one point an improbable victory.

Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan said:

"That last 20 minutes we just probably went a bit passive - we knew they were going to run but we were probably more worried about making a mistake.

"They're just too good a side. We knew they were going to run from the kick-offs, they were going to throw everything. In other competitions we can stay up there and hope someone makes a mistake, but you just can't do that at this level.

"There's definitely moments in that game where we played some really good stuff#, we shouldn't lose sight of that, but we need to be more consistent and stronger in those key moments."

Dragons: J Williams; Holmes, Owen, J Roberts, Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams (capt); Bateman, Dee, Fairbrother, J Davies, Screech, Wainwright, Keddie, Moriarty.

Replacements: T Davies, Reynolds, Brown, Carter, Baker, Bertranou, E Lloyd, Tompkins.

Northampton: Mallinder; Sleightholme, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Mitchell; Auterac, Haywood, Painter, Moon, Coles, Tonks, Adendorff, Harrison (capt).

Replacements: Fish, Waller, Heffernan, Bean, Matavesi, Taylor, Tuala, Collins.

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)

Assistants: Craig Evans (Wales), Aled Evans (Wales)

TMO: Patrick Dellac (France).

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