What is there left to say about the Dragons? Except, maybe, that their capitulation at home to a third string Leinster team might represent a new low. Jamie Phillips thinks so and worries the only way is up – to North Wales.
What a difference a week makes in sport – especially if you’re a Dragons fan.
There was a lot of optimism when the region earned a deserved and much-needed win over Edinburgh. The players dug deep and the defence was noticeably a lot better.
The Dragons had earlier made the decision to sack defence coach Hendre Marnitz. It would have been a tough call for head coach Bernard Jackman – having to part company with his friend and colleague – but something had to give with the Dragons conceding a whopping 127 tries in just 29 league games since his appointment.
On Monday evening at Rodney’s Bar came the David Buttress Q and A which was requested by the supporters club after the meek thumping (sounds familiar?) against Connacht in Galway.
How relieved must the chairman have been that his grilling took place following the Edinburgh win and not this week after the embarrassing Leinster hammering?
Buttress spoke very well and certainly had some interesting things to say.
The obvious question of Hallam Amos’s future arose and the co-founder of Just Eat took a big bite out of the Cardiff Blues calling them “disrespectful” over their suggestions they may decide to sign the Wales wing.
Buttress was also angry the story had broken on the day of the Edinburgh game and stressed that Amos to the Blues is not a done deal. Talks, he insisted, are currently ongoing.
However, Buttress did admit the Dragons would have to make “cold-hearted decisions with our budget.” He’s clear that they can’t retain everyone.
But he also implied that Amos’s wages could be used to bring in the quality fly-half they so desperately need.
In reality, however, it looks for all the world that Amos – the Dragons’ best player and biggest asset, and a home-grown talent – is leaving for the Blues.
To be honest, who can blame him? He’s given eight years’ service to the Dragons. And a player of his undoubted quality deserves some success.
And so we moved on to Saturday night when a strong-looking Dragons team, hosted a third string, inexperienced Leinster line-up.
Many fans even got excited when the teams were announced as they sensed a rare win.
It was never going to be that straightforward. Leinster’s depth is phenomenal. They’re renowned for it.
They know they can beat most teams in the Guinness Pro14 with their reserve players, such is the depth, quality and resources available to them.
I didn’t tip the Dragons to win but I certainly didn’t think we would get walloped in such humiliating fashion by Leinster’s thirds.
Not even the introduction of Wales Internationals Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Elliot Dee and Leon Brown off the bench did anything to inspire the diabolical Dragons.
The atmosphere at Rodney Parade was non-existent as Leinster’s tries in the second-half were met with total silence in the crowd.
Many supporters were leaving the stadium after just 55 minutes. It was grim, to say the least, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Dragons.
Next up are tough European away trips to Northampton and Clermont. Then follows the festive derbies against the Blues at the Arms Park, the Ospreys in Newport, and the Scarlets in Llanelli.
The Dragons have to bounce back quickly or they’ll be more 50+ point hammerings to come.
We’re only in December but it looks like being another bleak season.
There’s absolutely no doubting Buttress’s passion, determination and vision for the Dragons.
He wants success and he told supporters “people are worried that we’re getting better and that drives the on-line vitriol – 90 per cent of social media is utter garbage”.
The sad truth is, however, that people are not worried about the Dragons. They’re laughing at them.
Performances like those on Saturday night only provides ammunition for critics to fire at them and the schadenfreude will continue unless they start winning more games and earning respect.
Yes, we all know it’s a rebuilding project and patience is needed etc etc….
We’ve been told that many times, but they still have to show signs of progress and despite Bernard Jackman having more resources, more backroom staff, and a much stronger squad than any of his predecessors had, the fact is they simply haven’t shown enough progress to convince people that this really is a team on the up.
Even the most fervent Dragons apologist will admit results have been disappointing.
Buttress says he has a great off-field team that’s ready for success, so why is it failing on the field?
Is the coaching up to it? Is it the players? Or maybe both? Who knows, but something is clearly wrong.
Welsh rugby needs the Dragons to get their act together on the field because continued failure and embarrassment could see the Dragons have a new home up in Colwyn Bay and that would be a very sad outcome for everyone associated with rugby in Gwent.
Long suffering supporters deserve so much better than this.