Rugby did all the talking on the opening weekend of the Guinness PRO14, with attacking flair and nail-biting finishes on offer in equal measure.
In all, 10 bonus points were won – a tally that equals the record for most in a round – while Round 1 saw wins for both Italian teams, Benetton Rugby and Zebre, in the season opener for the first time.
Round 2 continues on Saturday with five fixtures – beginning at 15.00 as the Isuzu Southern Kings travel to take on the Dragons.
What’s at stake?
On Saturday, Dragons will be out to make amends against the Isuzu Southern Kings (live on Premier Sports 1 & eir sport 1, 15:00) for their opening-round defeat to Benetton.
The Kings, however, will be buoyed by their performance in the loss to Zebre and having already beaten Dragons in Port Elizabeth may sense an opportunity to win their first away game in the Guinness PRO14.
Team news (Dragons)
No.8 Ross Moriarty will make his Dragons debut as the Men of Gwent. Moriarty missed the opening game of the season through suspension but is called up as head coach Bernard Jackman makes five changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the South Africans.
A new-look front row sees prop Brok Harris and hooker Elliot Dee named, as they pack down with Leon Brown. Lock Matthew Screech is named in the second row alongside captain Cory Hill.
The final change is at fly half where Josh Lewis will make his first Guinness PRO14 start, replacing the injured Gavin Henson.
Team news (Isuzu Southern Kings)
Head coach Deon Davids has made four changes to the team for their second-round fixture. The changes include a first starting berth for the experienced Springbok Bjorn Basson, who will run on in the No.11 jersey.
Other changes will see one of the Isuzu Southern Kings’ longest-serving players, Andisa Ntsila, making a return to the starting XV after he came off the bench last weekend against Zebre.
In a rotational change, Stephan de Wit replaces Brandon Brown at flank. A positional switch in the backline will see Yaw Penxe, who started on the left wing last week, moving to full-back to replace Michael Botha.
Jackman said: “The players have trained exceptionally hard all week and how we respond to last Saturday’s game with Benetton Rugby will be a good test of our character.
“We want to put our best foot forward and show we are much better than we were in the opening round.
“We’re all looking forward to seeing Ross (Moriarty) in a Dragons jersey.”
Isuzu Southern Kings head coach Davids commented: “Our main aim with our selections this week was to ensure that we keep some continuity in the team, and also to broaden experience within the squad.
“We are quite happy to see Bjorn Basson, our experienced winger, making his debut for the Isuzu Southern Kings.”
Key battle – Cory Hill v Bobby de Wee
With Cory Hill and Bobby de Wee the driving force in these two sides, the match-up between the pair could go a long way to deciding where the points end up.
Hill, 26, is the Dragons captain for good reason and seems to improve his game month on month, also possessing a useful knack of making crucial lineout steals.
De Wee, meanwhile, earnt his reputation in the Guinness PRO14 last season for his stellar work-rate. The South African made 250 tackles in 2017/18 – 25 more than any other individual.
Key fact: Dragons’ record against South African opponents in the Guinness PRO14 last season was won one, lost two
Did you know? The two sides have met twice before, with each side winning its respective home game last season – the Kings’ only Championship victory to date
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Dafydd Howells, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos, Josh Lewis, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Matthew Screech, Cory Hill (c), Ollie Griffiths, Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Ryan Bevington, Lloyd Fairbrother, Brandon Nansen, Huw Taylor, Tavis Knoyle, Arwel Robson, Adam Warren
Isuzu Southern Kings: Yaw Penxe, Michael Makase, Harlon Klassen, Berton Klassen, Bjorn Basson, Masixole Banda, Rudi van Rooyen, Justin Forwood, Michael Willemse (C), Luvuyo Pupuma, Schalk Oelofse, Bobby De Wee, Stephan De Wit, Martinus Burger, Andisa Ntsila
Replacements: Alandre Van Rooyen, Schalk Ferreira, Lupumlo Mguca, John-Charles Astle, Ruaan Lerm, Godlen Masimla, Martin Du Toit, Ulrich Beyers
TV: Live on Premier Sports, Eir Sport and Supersport
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 15th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (IRFU), Gwyn Morris (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU)
TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)
Dragons fly-half Josh Lewis helped himself to 17 points as the Welsh region grabbed their first win of the season in a thrilling match against the Isuzu Southern Kings.
Ollie Griffiths opened the scoring with a wonderful effort after just four minutes and Aaron Wainwright got his name on the board before the Kings’ Michael Willemse struck back.
Bjorn Basson also touched down in the first half and Godlen Masimla’s converted try brought the scores level heading into the final quarter.
But Lewis notched his second penalty and then converted his own excellent score, meaning Yaw Penxe’s late effort secured a bonus point but couldn’t steal the win.
A Scintillating first half at Rodney Parade saw Hallam Amos and Jordan Williams set the tone for the match as they broke from deep before Griffiths touched down on four minutes.
Lewis missed with a monster penalty effort but more points would soon come as Wainwright, excellent last week, charged down a penalty kick to make it 14-0.
Lewis made it 17-0 but the Kings rallied, with skipper Willemse crashing over from close range after a lineout.
The deficit was further reduced just minutes later as Basson raced down the touchline to finish off a superb effort from deep.
Dragons continued to pile on the pressure as the half drew to a close but were first denied as Leon Brown’s try was ruled out by the TMO before Tyler Morgan failed to scramble over in the corner.
With the Welsh region leading 17-10 at half-time, the Kings turned up the pressure after the break and an excellent tackle was needed from Jack Dixon to prevent Michael Makase crossing the line.
The South African outfit got their reward on 56 minutes though when a counter-ruck in the middle of the pitch saw the ball offloaded to Masimla, who promptly raced to the corner.
With the score 17-17 heading into the final quarter, things looked set for a tense finish and Dragons nudged themselves ahead once again when Lewis notched another penalty.
That lead was extended minutes later as Jordan Williams sent up a high kick and Lewis took it at full tilt to blast his way to the line, before converting to create a 10-point lead.
The Kings weren’t done there though and Berton Klaasen almost stepped his way to the line before Penxe grabbed the final try of the game, his 80th-minute score marginally too late for a comeback.