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Dragons beaten again despite spirited performance against high-flying Bulls

By PA
Mornay Smith of the Bulls prepares for a scrum during the United Rugby Championship match between the Dragons and Vodacom Bulls at Rodney Parade on January 06, 2023 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Dragons were left propping up the United Rugby Championship standings despite producing a spirited performance before going down 31-10 at home to the high-flying Bulls.

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The hosts competed strongly throughout but Bulls always had the additional power and that touch of class to ensure a bonus-point victory that lifts them up to second.

Kurt-Lee Arendse, Mpilo Gumede, Embrose Papier and Johan Grobbelaar scored the South African side’s tries with Chris Smith converting all four and adding a penalty.

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The Dragons responded with a Corey Baldwin try that was converted by Will Reed, and a Cai Evans penalty, but it was not enough to prevent a 10th defeat in 12 league outings this season.

Dragons began promisingly with well-judged kicks from Evans and Steff Hughes keeping Bulls penned in their own 22 in the opening 10 minutes.

However, the hosts did not look likely to capitalise on their attacking platform and it was the South Africans who grabbed the first points when Smith slotted over a 16th-minute penalty.

Dragons were under pressure in the set-scrums but were still able to maintain possession and were rewarded with a penalty from Evans to leave the scores level at the end of a competitive first quarter.

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The home side’s defence was tested when powerful flanker Marco van Staden burst through tackles from Rhodri Williams and Evans to take him deep into opposition territory but a penalty allowed Dragons to relieve the pressure.

The Welsh region then suffered a few hammer blows in quick succession. First they lost hooker Brodie Coghlan to injury before Reed was sin-binned for kicking the ball away in an off-side position, with Bulls able to benefit when a long pass from Willie Le Roux sent Arendse over.

Reed was able to return with no further damage to the scoreboard but his side still trailed 10-3 at the interval.

After the restart, Bulls brought the game to life with a stunning score. A neat off-load from Canan Moodie created space for Arendse down the right flank. The ball was recycled for Le Roux to place a cross-field kick into the hands of Devon Williams who provided Gumede with the scoring pass.

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Dogged Dragons kept their line intact for a long period but late tries from Papier and Grobbelaar gave Bulls their bonus point with Baldwin picking up a consolation score for the hosts.

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