Ninth plays eighth in the Guinness PRO12 as Newport Gwent Dragons lock horns with Edinburgh at Rodney Parade on Sunday at 15:30.
Newport have lost four out their last five in the Guinness PRO12, but can overtake the Scots with a win.
What’s at stake? Both sides need points on the board if they are to mount a realistic charge on the top six.
Victory will send Edinburgh extend their lead over the Dragons in the table and give them some breathing room as they look to push on towards the play-offs – although victory will not be enough to take them above Cardiff Blues, who they currently trail by eight points.
Whereas the Dragons could leapfrog Edinburgh if they can follow up their win against Connacht in their last Guinness PRO12 outing.
Team News (Newport): The Dragons welcome back skipper Lewis Evans alongside flanker Ollie Griffiths and No.8 Ed Jackson.
The centre partnership will have one change as Jack Dixon replaces Adam Warren.
And the front row has two changes made to it as loosehead prop Sam Hobbs is joined by hooker T Rhys Thomas and tighthead Brok Harris.
Team News (Edinburgh): Edinburgh have made two changes to their team. Michael Allen comes in on the left wing in place of the injured Tom Brown, while Nasi Manu returns to the back-row after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Talking points: Jason Tovey returns to Rodney Parade to face his former side for the first time since his move north last March.
Tovey’s tally of 951 points is the most in the Dragons’ history, and while he missed the start of the Guinness PRO12 season with a fractured wrist, since returning at the end of October he has propelled Edinburgh to four victories in their last five matches.
And Dragons backs coach Shaun Connor, a teammate of Tovey’s between 2008 and 2010, is all too aware of the threat posed by the 27-year-old.
“Jason tended to play well at Rodney Parade, so I am sure he will be looking forward to coming back,” he said.
“He has been excellent for Edinburgh and is a player who probably needed the change to freshen up. Jason has always been a quality player and we will have to be wary of his kicking game.
“He kicks the ball as well as anybody in the league and is like Sam Davies in the way that he can manufacture kicks.”
Key Battle: Young fly-half and Dragons’ top points scorer Angus O’Brien has kept his place in the side, and will battle it out with former mentor Tovey at number ten.
Key Stat: The Dragons are on a three-game winning streak at home, with Edinburgh head coach Duncan Hodge admitting they are a different beast at Rodney Parade.
He added: “Dragons are a good team and Rodney Parade is a difficult place to go, but we’re excited ahead of the weekend and ready to embrace the challenge.”
Did you know? Newport Gwent Dragons have not yet won two games in a row this season.
Newport Gwent Dragons: C Meyer, P Howard, S Beard, J Dixon, A Hewitt, A O’Brien, T Knoyle, S Hobbs, T Rhys Thomas, B Harris, N Crosswell, R Landman, L Evans, O Griffiths, E Jackson.
Replacements: R Buckley, P Price, L Fairbrother, M Screech, N Cudd, S Pretorius, G Rhys Jones, T Morgan.
Top points scorer: Angus O’Brien 28. Top Try Scorer: Pat Howard 3
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn, D Hoyland, C Dean, P Burleigh, M Allen, J Tovey, S Kennedy, J Cosgrove, N Cochrane, M McCallum, F McKenzie, B Toolis, M Bradbury, J Ritchie, N Manu
Replacements: S McInally, K Whyte, F Arregui, L Carmichael, V Mata, S Hidalgo-Clyne, D Weir, G Bryce
Top points scorer: Duncan Weir 34. Top Try Scorer: Magnus Bradbury 3
TV: S4C (KO 3.30pm)
Match Officials – Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU). Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (IRFU), Rhys Thomas (WRU)
Fly-half Angus O’Brien won the battle against his former mentor Jason Tovey as Newport Gwent Dragons ran out 27-19 winners over Edinburgh in an entertaining Guinness PRO12 match at Rodney Parade.
O’Brien crossed the whitewash in the first-half, notched two penalties and converted all three of his side’s tries as they came from behind to record their third league win of the season and leapfrog their opponents in the table.
Tovey, returning to Rodney Parade to face his former side for the first time since his move north last March, managed two conversions himself as the visitors also dotted down three times but O’Brien’s two penalties ultimately made the difference.
Edinburgh started the brighter of the two sides and duly took the lead after a flowing passing move inside ten minutes.
Michael Allen was instrumental in the move, first with a break through the middle, before he later helped switch the play with Tovey floating a ball over to the right for Ben Toolis to put in Nasi Manu in the corner. Tovey then converted for a 7-0 lead.
The hosts reduced the deficit to four shortly afterwards when O’Brien stepped up from being caught late by flanker Magnus Bradbury to nail his penalty effort.
He was off target with another effort four minutes later but it was soon forgotten as the Dragons got their first try of the afternoon.
Rhys Thomas stole the ball from the Edinburgh line out with the Dragons then launching a counterattack which was finished off in style when Carl Meyer found the gap to sprint in under the posts, with O’Brien’s conversion taking the score to 10-7.
The hosts had their tails up and after more sustained pressure on the Edinburgh line, Sam Hobbs bounced his way off the bodies in his way to cross for Dragons’ second try of the match with O’Brien adding the extras.
But it seemed that whatever the Dragons could do, Edinburgh could do too as, just minutes later, the visitors brought up their second try through Chris Dean.
Allen again played a key role, running onto the ball at speed to keep the move alive, before Dean eventually received the ball and twisted his way over.
It was all about the tries and O’Brien duly brought up try number five of the half on 27 minutes as he exchanged plays with Sam Beard before running onto the latter’s kick through to go over in the far corner.
The former Wales under-20 outside-half then converted to put his side 24-12 up going into the break.
After the break-neck speed of the first-half, the start of the second 40 minutes proved to be a stop-start affair.
The Dragons did look like getting close to a fourth try on 53 minutes but James Thomas got penalised for entering a ruck illegally from the side and Edinburgh cleared.
Shortly afterwards Tovey was replaced by fit-again Scotland international Duncan Weir as Edinburgh looked to shuffle things around.
And it appeared to work as the Scot played an crucial role in the visitors’ third try on 65 minutes, switching the play to stretch the Dragons’ defence before Fijian Viliame Mata powered over close to a ruck.
Weir converted to make it a five-point game with 14 minutes left on the clock.
With their tales up, Edinburgh went in search of a fourth score, kicking to the corner for a line out but the Dragons cleared.
And then it was the hosts’ turn to attack with O’Brien trying his luck with a drop goal attempt. It was off target but play was brought back for an earlier infringement and he made no mistake from the kicking tee this time to take the scores to 27-19 with just minutes left on the clock.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
25 Nov 2016
25 Nov 2016