David Ribbans’ brace paved the way for Northampton Saints’ first European triumph of the season as they swept away Dragons 35-21 in Newport.
Scores from the South African lock and Alex Mitchell – plus a penalty try – handed the visitors a 21-0 half-time advantage, before Saints pressed on after the interval with Ribbans adding to his tally and replacement Cobus Reinach also crossing the whitewash.
The result puts Boyd’s men right back in the mix in Pool One; Saints sit third on points difference after their victory, but face the South Wales side again in their next Challenge Cup clash in early December.
Saints dominated possession in the early stages, and after two quick penalties Dan Biggar kicked to the corner for Ribbans to then crash over during the resulting passage of play.
The Wales fly-half made no mistake with the routine conversion, and Saints looked like going over again moments later – but Mitchell’s ball to Taqele Naiyaravoro was picked off just before the Dragons’ line.
The visitors were ruthless in attack however and it was Mitchell who atoned for the error and scored Saints’ second try after 15 minutes, holding off several defenders to complete a brilliant run into the corner after Biggar’s classy break through Dragons’ defensive line.
A huge scrum penalty deep in the hosts’ territory gave Boyd’s side another golden opportunity as Biggar once again kicked for the corner, and Dragons lock Lewis Evans then saw yellow for repeated infringements to halt the driving maul.
Another lineout drive finally resulted in referee Mathieu Raynal going under the sticks to award a penalty try, and dish out another sin bin for Dragons with Adam Warren this time seeing yellow to take his side down to 13 men.
Saints were dealt a blow not long into the second half as Elliot Dee peeled from a ruck and stretched to score, with Josh Lewis converting to make it 7-21.
But the visitors were back on the front foot soon after with a bonus-point clinching try, as Ribbans got up with the ball from a pile of bodies after Mitchell skipped around a ruck to go close.
A scrappy ten minutes followed with possession changing hands several times, but a raft of replacements saw Ehren Painter, Francois van Wyk, Dom Barrow, and Cobus Reinach enter the fray.
Dragons grabbed a lifeline however with 17 minutes remaining as despite Jarryd Sage getting dragged down by Tom Collins, referee Raynal deemed he was not held and the centre got to his feet to finish under the posts.
But Saints once again struck straight back with a sensational solo score from Reinach, who stripped the ball from a Dragons hand and sprinted all of 60 metres to slide into the corner, and James Grayson nailed the touchline conversion to take the scoreline to 35-14.
And not even a last-gasp penalty try for Dragons could put a dampener on the evening for Saints, who returned to Northampton with all five available Pool One points.
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