So near, yet so far! The Dragons have had to wait a very long time to secure an away win in the Guinness Pro14 and after wiping out a 20 points deficit to lead 27-26 in Benetton Treviso it looked as though the long wait was finally over.
One last scrum, a clean strike, ball back to the No.8’s feet and kick it off the park, and victory would have been theirs at Stadio di Monigo. And they’d have deserved it as well.
But Irish referee Andrew Brace had other ideas. With the clock ticking into the red zone he decided the collapsed scrum was deliberate by the Dragons front row, even though he had warned the Benetton Rugby tight-head three times in earlier scrums.
Was he kidded into awarding the home side a penalty? Surely he should have at least re-set the scrum?
Not a bit of it. Up went the arm, over went Tito Tebaldi’s penalty and instead of securing their first away win in the league since they last won in Treviso on 28 March, 2015, they slumped to their 15th defeat in 19 outings this season as Benetton celebrated their record 10thtriumph.
A scrum penalty conceded on their own ball with the clock in the red denied the Dragons their first away win in the Guinness PRO14 since 28 March, 2015.
Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman insisted: “We showed unbelievable spirit and heart to hit back in the second half, especially as we brought a huge amount of youngsters with us on our Italian tour.
“I’ve seen some pretty poor decisions this season, but for us to be penalised for collapsing a scrum on our own ball in the last minute is hard to take.
“All we had to do was get the ball to the feet of our No.8, yet he penalised us for taking down the scrum having warned their tight-head at the previous three scrums. It was a shocking decision.
“Even though we lost, it was still a step forward for us. The performances of players like Arwel Robson, Connor Edwards, Jared Rosser and Taine Basham when he came on were really encouraging. We are building for the future with our younger players.
“They reckon it takes eight to 10 games before players get comfortable playing at this level and that’s why we are trying to give our youngsters that game time this season in readiness for our next campaign.
“Even though the result was a negative, when we started to play in the second half we looked really good.”
The last Welsh region to win a league game at Stadi di Monigo were Cardiff Blues in November, 2016, so it was always going to be a tough task for the Dragons to notch only their third win of the PRO14 season. But they looked like doing so after three tries in a 15 minute purple patch hauled them into the lead after a first-half in which Benetton picked up their try-bonus point and led 26-6.