Chris Paterson scored 27 points including two tries as the Edinburgh Gunners left the Dragons certain to finish the season as bottom Welsh side in the League and face a play off for a Heineken Cup place next season.
It was a disappointing conclusion to the Dragons’ home programme, reflecting a long and difficult campaign that will see them finish as the lowest-placed Welsh region. In contrast, Edinburgh were sharper in thought and deed, with Scottish international Hugo Southwell, Rory Lawson and Paterson influential figures.
Paterson and Craig Warlow exchanged early penalties before the Gunners scored the opening try. A missed tackle by Dragons centre Ceri Sweeney on Peter Jorgensen proved costly as Southwell went on to send Paterson over unopposed. Paterson added the conversion to put the Scots in control.
However it proved just the spur the Dragons needed as they stormed back to take the lead within seven minutes of the Edinburgh touchdown. A second Warlow penalty was the prelude to a superb try by Hal Luscombe, the Wales midfield man exposing the Gunners’ defence for pace as he raced 50 metres to score a fine opportunist try.
A brace of Paterson penalties gave the resilient Scots a 16-11 lead at the changeover and the Dragons, who needed a bonus point win to keep alive any hopes of automatic Heineken Cup qualification, faced an even taller order early in the second half. The Dragons were punished for conceding turnover ball and the Gunners produced a flowing move, climaxed by Dave Callam sending full-back Southwell over for a fine try. Paterson added the conversion.
It could have been worse for the Welshmen as Paterson struck a post with a long-range attempt at goal, just after the Dragons had lost inspirational skipper Jason Forster through injury. The rampaging Scots sealed an emphatic victory when Simon Webster crossed for a well-engineered try in the 65th minute following a Jorgensen burst. Paterson’s conversion pushed the visitors’ lead up to 30-11, leaving the Dragons with little more than pride to play for.
But they were again chasing shadows as Webster set off on a long-range kick and chase counter-attack that led to Paterson completing a notable hat-trick of tries. The Scotland star converted to seal a memorable personal and team triumph.
The result means the Dragons face a play-off with the third-placed finishers in the Italian championship next month to gain a Heineken Cup spot.