Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Dragons have reasons to be cheerful against Ulster after Glasgow win

Scrum-half Richie Rees

At last they had something to celebrate and rightly so as last Sunday saw the Dragons down play-off chasing Glasgow Warriors 24-23 in the muck of Rodney Parade.

And no better time to get that winning feeling again after not tasting it in the PRO12 since December's victory over Cardiff Blues. So, another typically obdurate display from the least-lauded and oft-troubled Welsh region to produce a rare taste of giant-killing? Well, not exactly.

Last Sunday was no flash in the pan as the men of Gwent had actually achieved a notable double over Gregor Townsend's squad, having also won in Scotstoun back in late November when they came away on the better side of a 23-8 scoreline.

And not forgetting the opening day of the season when Ulster also lost at Rodney Parade while both Munster and Leinster have struggled to get away with wins on their visits to the place.

Indeed, their current seventh place in the table tells of a side who have been putting together a few results just when most would have predicted another season of decline and fall even though Toby Faletau, unexpectedly, opted to stick around.

But their problem, as always, has been their inability to put in a consistent run of results and that situation was shown in this season's Amlin Challenge Cup campaign – the Dragons are in the second tier competition on the basis of being the bottom placed Welsh side in the PRO12 – which failed to bring much in the way of reward.

They admittedly delivered an expected win over Italian part-timers Mogliano at home and then impressively saw off Bordeaux-Begles 40-24 at Rodney Parade. But they failed to overcome the French away and lost twice to eventual pool winners Bath.

No shame there, but to end up trailing Mogliano on the trip to Italy in January; a situation which necessitated a second half rescue mission, left head coach Lyn Jones understandably annoyed.

Skipper Andrew Coombs – who played in Sunday's win over Glasgow but misses out tonight after picking up an injury while training with Wales earlier this week – pretty much crystallised the region's problems when addressing how close the Dragons, who eventually won 24-12, came to a hugely embarrassing reverse.

"There were a lot of lessons to learn from that last game out at Mogliano," Coombs admitted.

"At the end of the day we are a very young squad," the skipper said and since then they have lost three of their last four –- two LV Cup defeats and a defeat at Leinster – which is why the victory over Glasgow was so enthusiastically embraced.

Forwards coach Kingsley Jones hit the nail on the head.

"I'm fed up being the unlucky losers. We have to stop that and we showed some greats character in adversity to get the win."

Fair enough, but they know that coming to Ravenhill is hardly a place where they can expect significant return. And with Jason Tovey benched – he scored all the points in their 15-8 win over Ulster in September – a lot is being asked of 23-year-old Steffan Jones who is one of four changes from Sunday.

Scrum-half Richie Rees will doubtless play an important role in directing the traffic while should the Dragons give the ball some air, full-back Rhys Jones can show attacking potential.

Up front, 34-year-old Bruce Douglas, who is on loan from Bristol, makes his first start while, at the other end of the scale, 21-year-old second row Matthew Screech is in for Coombs.

It's a big ask, but the Dragons have reasons to be cheerful.

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