Newport Gwent Dragons up and running after hard-fought win
Newport Gwent Dragons got off the mark in the Guinness PRO12 with an 11-6 victory over Italians Zebre.
Head coach Kingsley Jones will be grateful for the win and the first home try in Dragons colours by wing Pat Howard, plus two penalties from another new recruit, stand-off Nick Macleod, but there was not a great deal to entertain the crowd in a dour second half.
Zebre outside-half Carlo Canna kicked two penalties for his side and missed another as they frustrated the Welsh region even when they had two front rowers in the sin bin at one stage.
Zebre had the Dragons pinned in their own 22 in the opening moments and were rewarded when Canna booted the first points.
But the Dragons cut through the Italians' midfield defence as the match began to warm up.
Scrum-half Sarel Pretorious was the main play-maker and he almost scored the opening try as his opposite number Guglielmo Palazzani fumbled a ball in open play inside his 22.
Pretorious kicked on but was beaten to the ball as it was taken over the Zebre line for a scrum five.
It was imperative that the Dragons regained their mojo in the league after losing 29-8 away to Ulster last weekend, and they had the crowd roaring with approval when they put a decent move together down the left.
Number eight Ed Jackson was involved before he fed Welsh international full-back Hallam Amos to surge towards the line before laying off a scoring pass to Howard.
The try went unconverted but the Dragons extended their lead to five points when Macleod punished Zebre for going offside at a ruck with a second penalty.
With five minutes left of the half, the fly-half added his third - a long-range effort from 39 metres - before the lead was cut when indiscipline on the edge of their 22 saw the Dragons penalised and Canna kicked his second penalty to make it 11-6 at the interval.
Canna had another shot at goal when the Dragons were penalised for not rolling from a ruck but pushed his 25-metre shot wide.
It was, though, a poor second half as mistakes ruled.
Dragons tight head Brok Harris and Zebre replacement loose head Guillermo Roan found themselves in the sin bin midway through the period and, before they came back on, Andrea De Marchi, who had returned to the pitch in place of flanker Maxime Mbanda, also received a yellow card.
Zebre were down to 13 men for only a matter of a minutes and then played another short period with the Italians having 14 men on the pitch but the Welsh region had lost their rhythm and failed to take advantage.