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Dragons Den

Guinness PRO12 Editor

10 Sep 2010

Players and coaches from Newport Gwent Dragons tell us exactly how they’re feeling ahead of Sunday’s clash with Glasgow.

The Dragons began their Magners League campaign with a 40-point defeat at Connacht in Round 1 – a result that came as a shock to those inside the club despite a long-standing record of poor results in Galway.

Paul Turner’s men enjoyed a decent campaign last time out, silencing their critics by making a concerted push for the Play-Offs.

The Dragons took their chase right to the wire, eventually falling short with just one game left to play.

But while a top-four spot may have ultimately eluded them, the Rodney Parade outfit did claim a number of notable scalps over champions-in-waiting the Ospreys, beaten finalists Leinster and European giants Munster on their way to comfortably seeing off the Scarlets in the race for the third Welsh Heineken Cup spot.

With last season clearly a step in the right direction, expectations were somewhat higher than normal at the start of this campaign, making Saturday’s result at The Sportsground even more disappointing.

We caught up with head coach Paul Turner and a handful of Dragons players at their weekly press conference to get their take on what went wrong, together with how they intend to respond against the Warriors.

Here’s what they had to say…

Head coach Paul Turner

"I don’t mind losing, but it was the manner of the defeat. We just made too many mistakes and got punished. Good sides, or good squads, don’t allow that to happen.

"That was the disappointing thing. The players gave us the right vibes at the weekend with their energy for the first game of the season, and then the wheels came off.

"If you don’t defend well and you get cut early on, it does set a pattern for the game. In fairness to Connacht, and not a lot of people have said this, their energy was something to hang your hat on. Their intensity rocked us early and we never recovered from it. But good sides do recover from those things.

"You can’t make that many errors; you can’t give that many penalties away – we were around the 20 mark – and you can’t miss that many tackles – again, we were around the 20 mark.

"The way the game has gone, possession is key. If you can keep possession and get a little bit of momentum and go forward, you can usually get penalties and that’s what Connacht got.

"We just didn’t get the ball off them. We said last week, ‘big setpiece, go forward and discipline’. And we had none of those things.

"People haven’t given Connacht enough credit, though. They squeezed us and we reacted in a way that I’d seen before but that I thought had disappeared from here. We’ve talked about getting a hard edge on the road, changing our game plan a little bit and being more ruthless and effective but it certainly wasn’t there at the weekend.

"We’ve now got to regroup because it’s going to be a long season, it’s just disappointing the way we started.

"I am expecting a reaction on Sunday – we’ve got some good players here. I’m happy with the way they’ve responded, but they had to anyway. That had to listen to what we had to say.

"I said before Saturday that it’s going to be a long season and we are going to get better. But we’re definitely going to have to get better than that showing, that’s for sure."


The Dragons were second best in Galway last weekend

Hugo Ellis

"It wasn’t the start we were looking for. We spoke a lot about the kind of environment that we’d find at Connacht and not having done well there in the past, but we never got going. We gave away a soft try and before we knew it we were down and the game got away from us from there.

"We set our away form out as a key area for improvement after last season when we struggled away. Saturday was the perfect opportunity to do that.

"We couldn’t really complain about anything. We had the perfect weather to play rugby in. Yes, it’s a tough place to play, but you’ve just got to man up and perform on the day and we didn’t do that.

"It was pretty disappointing and I’m pretty gutted – there’s plenty of competition for places in the back row.

"No one likes to be on the wrong end of a 40-point haul. It was very embarrassing, but, at the same time, it was the first game of a long season and we can’t start pushing the panic button.

"We know what we did wrong – we gave away some really soft tries. It was giving away stupid points that killed us. Hopefully we can put that right this week.

"We’ll just have to get our heads up, take it on the chin and come out fighting on Sunday."

Injured captain Tom Willis

"It was a particularly hard game to watch because it wasn’t our best performance.

"We have a very healthy respect for Connacht but we made them look a particularly good team through our own ineptitude at executing skills and making tackles.

"If you look at it statistically, with missed tackles, penalty count and individual errors, we were certainly on the wrong end of all those things. All in all, there’s plenty for us to work on this week.

"It was a bit of a deflating experience because we’d talk about getting off to a good start, particularly with the chance to make a statement away from home.

"We’ve got to front up this weekend but in no way are alarm bells ringing. It was the first game in a very long season and we’ve just to put these wrongs right.

"We’ve demonstrated over recent seasons that we’re a very tough team to play at home.

"The response has been very positive. There was a fair bit of finger pointing and a lot of accountability was required. We had guys fronting up and saying they’d made mistakes.

"What’s important now after the review is going out there, being positive, demonstrating that we learnt from it and ensuring that we have the attitude and the energy to turn it around this week."


Joe Bearman (left) gets to grips with Connacht's Ray Ofisa

Back row Joe Bearman

"We had a big meeting obviously about the Connacht game. Fingers were pointed and boys opened up. It’s unlike us to lose by that much.

"We’ve been training hard in pre-season and we just didn’t perform on the day. It’s as simple as that.

"We’ve got a big game now against Glasgow this week at home. It’s a chance for us to put it all right and forget about the Connacht game straight away.

"We’ve got to turn it around and make sure it doesn’t happen again this weekend. We know we can come back. I’ve been involved in this team when we’ve lost five on the bounce and come back and won four in a row.

"The boys can’t wait to get back out there and put everything right again. There’s no need to panic just yet. We’re good at home and, hopefully, we can pick up some points this weekend."