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Skinstad’S Super Start

Visiting coach Gary Ella had enough problems losing 10 players to Eddie O’Sullivan’s national squad, and several injuries to key players meant his men were on a hiding to nothing against The Dragons, who lost only two players to Wales duty and have suffered only one defeat at home all season.

Backrower Skinstad came off the bench in the 50th minute and used his power and pace to score the clincher in the 73rd minute after fellow South Africans Percy Montgomery and Shawn Van Rensburg had already crossed the Lions’ line. The 21-point victory marks The Dragons as real contenders for the League title.

The Dragons took advantage of the gale at their backs to apply the early pressure. In-form backrower Jason Forster burrowed his way over the line in the opening minutes, but Scottish referee Greg Davies ruled that he lost control as he grounded the ball. The relief of the visiting fans didn’t last long, though, as centre Montgomery stood up David Quinlan from the ensuing scrum to score near the corner.

The wind proved too much for the Lions, who tried to bash their way into enemy territory, and Dragons fullback Sione Tuipulotu powered his way over near the corner in the 17th minute. Montgomery curled in the conversion to double the margin to 14-0.

Leinster fly-half Brian O’Meara bagged a 35-metre penalty goal to keep his side in touch as Tuipulotu spilled two scoring passes, but the Dragons’ South African-born No 8 Van Rensburg extended his side’s lead as the home scrum muscled their way over the try-line.

O’Meara slotted two more penalty goals to narrow the margin to 21-9 at halftime.

Leinster clawed their way into Dragons territory in the second half, but a stunning break from Tuipulotu went through several pairs of hands and ended 70 metres upfield with prop Adam Black barging his way over the try-line for the bonus-point try. Montgomery banged over his fourth conversion to give the home side a daunting 19-point lead with 25 minutes left on the clock.

A stunning break from the red-hot Montgomery nearly killed the game off, but winger Ben Breeze was bundled out in the corner. Leinster ground their way back into contention, with centre Christian Warner scoring despite the attention of two Dragons defenders to bring his side to within two converted tries of a draw.

But it wasn’t to be. Montgomery stole the ball during a Leinster attack and The Dragons spun it wide. Skinstad had a man outside him but threw the dummy and powered over the line to score the home side’s second 70-metre try of the night.

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