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Bear-Hugged Dean Ryan Admits Beaten Dragons Have Much More To Do

By Paul Jones

Dean Ryan has admitted his Dragons team still have a long way to go and much to learn if they are to trouble the best teams in Europe.

The region have transformed themselves in the past couple of seasons from the regular whipping boys of the Guinness Pro14 to a rising force within the domestic structure.

But if ever there was clear evidence of the gap between at least three of the Welsh regions and the best teams across the border in England, then it was starkly underlined in the Dragons’ thumping 56-17 defeat at Bristol Bears in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup on Friday night.

The Dragons conceded seven tries and were blitzed in two three-try bursts during which they were run off their feet on a sobering evening.

It’s hard to imagine that either the Ospreys or the Cardiff Blues would have done much better and although the Scarlets might have made for a different story, Dragons coaching director Ryan confessed his own team have plenty of room for improvement.

“Our big learning curve is around the middle part of the game when they had a scoring burst after we had controlled the first 20 to 30 minutes,” he said.


“They get a burst, which they are always capable of with the quality they have, and I think we just lost accuracy.

“We had control but it derailed us. We’ve got to challenge ourselves to be better against sides as good as this.

“I think it gets a bit loose at the end, but it’s a quarter-final and there are no prizes for being close on the scoreboard.

“Our challenge is to be consistently better when we are put under the kind of pressure we were in the middle part of the game.”

Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy kicked 21 points from three penalties and six conversions and showed enough control to suggest he must be part of watching Wales coach Wayne Pivac’s thinking for the coming autumn internationals.


Sheedy, who was born and raised in Cardiff, looks a reasonable pick for Pivac’s squad in the continued absence through injury of Gareth Anscombe.

Flanker Ben Earl delivered a powerful statement to watching England head coach Eddie Jones with two memorable first-half tries that continued his rich vein of form as the autumn Tests countdown continues.

And Bristol’s Fijian centre Semi Radradra was also too hot for the Dragons to handle, setting up both of Earl’s tries through audacious approach play and adding a 60-metre score of his own.

“You only have to watch he last five or six weeks to know it is going to happen. He is a world class player,” admitted Ryan.

“Full credit to Bristol, they have got some force when it is coming. You can’t take a side with that much firepower and not think it is going to happen.


“It’s how you behave after that. We had opportunities after that spell in the first half. It’s the reaction to those periods that we have got to look at ourselves.

“There is not a lot you can do if Semi gets an offload away, he is world class,” he added.

“But there is so much more we can do to stay in a game longer when playing against a side as good as this.”

Bristol showed 14 changes from the side beaten by Premiership rivals Wasps last weekend, including starts for major summer arrivals Radradra, Earl and Kyle Sinckler.

Dragons boss Ryan, meanwhile, handed debuts to Wales international backs Jamie Roberts and Jonah Holmes, with full-back Jordan Williams featuring against his former club following 11 months out injured.

Bristol will face Bordeaux-Begles – Radradra’s former club – or Edinburgh in a home semi-final next Friday, and they will take some stopping.


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