Tries from Aled Brew and Adam Hughes led the Dragons to a much-needed win over Italian new boys Aironi.
The Dragons welcomed Aironi to Rodney Parade for the first time since the Italian side’s introduction to the Magners league.
The visitors were still searching for their first win in the league whilst the Dragons were looking for their first victory since hosting Glasgow in the second round of the competition.
The home side were boosted with the return of stars Jason Tovey, Luke Charteris and Toby Faletau but were dealt a blow with the late withdrawal of Wales squad member Danny Lydiate due to injury.
It was the Dragons who had the best of the opening exchanges with Tovey making amends for an early miss at goal by slotting two penalties. He added a third soon after as Aironi were penalised with prop Luca Redolfini yellow carded for failing to roll away at a ruck.
The early momentum continued in the Dragons favour as Brew produced a fantastic cross field kick for Tovey to collect before selflessly feeding back to Brew to score under the posts, Tovey added the extras as the Dragons moved into a commanding 16 point lead.
Tovey added a further penalty as the Dragons extended their lead. However this sparked somewhat of an Aironi resurgence as minutes later Giovanbattista Venditti capped some crisp handling in the back line to score in the corner. Ludovic Mercier missed with the conversion and with a penalty attempt late on to leave the score at 19- 5 going into the break.
The second half started much like the first as Aironi once again penalised with Tovey converting the ensuing penalty.
However the third quarter was a rather sloppy affair with both sides guilty of making elementary mistakes but it was the visitors who looked the more dangerous.
Aironi enjoyed the lion share of possession and produced a concerted period of pressure following the sin binning of hooker Steve Jones. However the Dragons defence stood firm preventing the visitors from adding to their first half try.
Momentum again shifted in the Dragons favour as persistent infringements cost the visitors, both Riccardo Bocchino and Fabio Staibano were shown yellow as pressure began to mount.
The Dragons pressed for their second try, yet the breakthrough did not come until late in the second half when Adam Hughes brushed aside weak Aironi defence to score underneath the posts with Tovey converting.
Buoyed by their try the Dragons pressed for a third but poor decision making proved costly. Aironi were once again reduced as replacement Fabio Staibano was sent for an early bath following a second yellow.
The Dragons did manage to have the last word as wing Adam Hughes grabbed his second of the game showing fine pace to follow up a long down field chase touching down under the posts with replacement Matthew Jones converting.
The conversion brought about the end of the game and a welcome 36-5 victory for the Dragons against a dogged and determined Aironi side, whilst the match did not bring the desired bonus point it was still a much needed victory for the Men of Gwent as they prepare for a tough away trip to face the Ospreys next weekend.
“Obviously we’re happy to have got the win,” said Dragons Assistant Coach Danny Wilson “but we left the bonus point on the table having had several opportunities to put it away and that’d going to be a point of focus for us going forward.
“We were disappointed with the tackle area tonight. We like to get through a lot of phases and the way Aironi slowed the ball down made it tough for us to play the sort of rugby we wanted to.
“It was tough to lose Danny Lydiate so late on but it shouldn’t impact on his autumn internationals. He has played a lot for us over the last wekks and has had very little chance to recover and to be honest he’s just been totally battered. He’s not the sort of player who would ever take it easy and had he played today he’d have been straight in there putting his body on the line.
“This game has certainly given us a boost going into next week’s game. Although the Ospreys will definitely have a strong side regardless of whether they have their Welsh internationals or not, tonight’s game was a good preparation for us.”
Dragons double-try scorer Adam Hughes said “It’s strange, this was my 5th start for the Dragons and every other game I’ve been really nervous beforehand but today I just felt excited and keen to get my hands on the ball. I never thought I’d be playing regularly for the Dragons so soon so to have scored 4 tries in 5 games for the region is fantastic. I grew up supporting Newport and the Dragons, being from Cwmbran so I’m really living my dream right now.
“My first try was a strike move straight off the training park and I didn’t know if I was going to make the second one or not! Darren Edwards has given me so much confidence. He really encourages us to try things and if we make mistakes, to keep our heads up.
“We really needed the win tonight. Winning and losing are both habits and tonight we remembered how to win again. Although we would have liked the bonus point, credit to the boys, we managed to change our tactics to counteract the way Aironi were playing, particularly around the contact area.
“The Ospreys game is a big derby and now we’ve won tonight we’re going to want to carry that momentum on next week. I’m really keen to play and with Will Harries and hopefully Aled in the Welsh side, I’ll be getting more chances to prove myself.”