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Faletau comes to rescue for Dragons as Munster fail to complete fightback

Munster warmed up for their Heineken Cup showdown with a heartbreaking defeat at Rodney Parade.

They trailed the Dragons 19-5 at half-time in Wales, despite scoring the opening try through Paddy Butler. But the Reds then surged into the lead thanks to a hat-trick of scores from Ronan O'Mahony, CJ Stander and Johne Murphy.

However, it did not last long as a devastating break from Toby Faletau laid the foundations for Ross Wardle to steal the win.

Rob Penney chose to wrap his stars in cotton wool ahead of next week's Heineken Cup semi-final against Clermont Auvergne.

Only Denis Hurley, Ian Keatley and Damien Varley were retained from the team that crashed to the defeat to Leinster that ended their Pro12 hopes.

The virtually second-string outfit put up a valiant effort but did little to force their way into the reckoning ahead of their European day of destiny a week today.

Tom Prydie fired the hosts into the lead after a 14-minute deadlock but Munster soon took the lead. Keatley launched a cross-kick to the right and former Springbok Tonderai Chavhanga foolishly let the ball bounce. He failed to gather it and Butler pounced for a fortunate try. Keatley failed to convert from wide and the Dragons hit back with a second penalty to regain their advantage.

They soon added further points after Wardle collected Steffan Jones' downfield hack. The big centre released Lewis Robling and he offloaded for Jones to score beneath the sticks.

Prydie added the extras and he nailed a third penalty after Butler was sent to the sin-bin for entering a ruck from an offside position.

Prydie quickly kicked the scoreboard back into life following the resumption of play as Munster's indiscipline continued. But despite being adrift by 17 points, the Reds refused to throw in the towel. After being awarded a penalty they generated quick-ball and it went through the hands of Keatley and Murphy to allow O'Mahony to squeeze into the corner.

Keatley struck the left upright from the touchline but the try had given Munster a glimmer of hope with the deficit reduced to 12 points.

Resurgent Munster continued to pile on the pressure and the Dragons were dealt a blow when Jones was forced off. That led to a reshuffle with Jonathan Evans moving onto the wing, Lewis Robling to out-half and Wayne Evans on at scrum-half.

And Munster grabbed a quick-fire second try with Strander powering over from a quick-tap at the back of the scrum.

The score sparked an ugly mass brawl and Damien Varley was sent to the sin-bin after Keatley converted. But the Dragons quickly capitalised on their numerical advantage as Faletau rampaged through the Munster defence to lay the platform for Wardle to squeeze into the corner.

Dragons – T Prydie; M Pewtner (A Tuilagi 64), R Wardle, L Robling, T Chavhanga; S Jones (W Evans 64), J Evans; A Coundley (O Evans 59), H Gustafson (S Parry 6-17, 64), N Buck (T Ryan 78); A Coombs (captain), R Sidoli (A Jones 74); D Lydiate, N Cudd, T Faletau.

Munster – D Hurley; R O'Mahony, I Dineen, JJ Hanrahan (D Barnes 51), J Murphy; I Keatley, C Sheridan (D Williams 51); W du Preez (M Horan 69), D Varley, S Archer (J Ryan 37-40, 59); D Foley, B Holland (I Nagle 61); D O'Callaghan, N Ronan, P Butler (CJ Stander 61).

Ref – C Blessano (Italy)

Irish Independent