Dai Flanagan Dragons

NEWPORT, WALES - DECEMBER 09: Dai Flanagan, Head Coach of Dragons RFC, looks on prior to the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Dragons RFC and Oyonnax Rugby at Rodney Parade on December 09, 2023 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

Dai Flanagan Fearing The Axe After Feeble Dragons Roll Over In Derby Clash

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By David Williams

Dai Flanagan has admitted he is in a fight to save his job at the Dragons after their latest humiliating capitulation.

The Dragons head coach saw his team crumble in the Boxing Day derby against their biggest rivals, Cardiff – conceding nine tries at the Arms Park in a hugely embarrassing 55-21 defeat.

It was a result that angered Dragons officials and fans and left the broadcasters – who had built the game up as an intense matter of local pride – deeply frustrated.

It was all over well before half-time, by which time the Dragons had conceded seven tries.

What puts Flanagan on dodgy ground is that on paper his team have more experience and just as much quality as Cardiff, perhaps more.

Yet they were blown away after producing a feeble display and the coach confessed his job is now on the line after just one win in eight matches in the United Rugby Championship.

“I’d imagine I’ll come under pressure and rightly so,” he said.

“I’ve watched football and rugby for years where people ask if you’re the right guy and it’s not for me to say.

“I’m quite eyes wide open to the world. It’s my first gig and I’ll go about my business as I always do.”

“We cannot accept performances like that. It’s really difficult because I really enjoy working with this group of players. I have high expectations for them and believe they are super-talented but they have to prove that to me. Today it wasn’t there.

“It’s tough, we have a brand to sell and want people to watch us and come to support us but performances like that will never do it.”

Cardiff head coach Matt Sherratt said: “I’ve been in rugby long enough to know that first halves don’t often go like that so you have to enjoy these moments.

“We never thought it would go like that. Dragons are a dogged team but have just had a bad day at the office.

“There was a bit of me that was worried whether we could deliver after the Bath game when we weren’t the underdogs but we started well and that gave everyone confidence.”

An avalanche of first half tries set Cardiff on their way to victory against a Dragons unit who had no answer to the home side’s finishing power at a sold out Cardiff Arms Park.

Rhys Carre, James Botham and Tomos Williams all scored try doubles in the opening 40 minutes with Ben Thomas also touching down as Cardiff stormed to a 45-7 lead at the break.

The first half blitz equalled the United Rugby Championship record, set by Edinburgh at Caerphilly in 2002 and equalled by Cardiff against Connacht in September 2008.

By the time Cardiff has secured their try bonus point, the only other try bonus point inside 18 minutes in URC history was scored by Tommy Bowe for Ulster v Border Reivers in 2006 Carre’s form would have given the Welsh selectors a nudge with the barnstorming prop bagging two tries inside 11 minutes.

Both were from close range but his brute force was on show for the second when he used Steff Hughes and Joe Davies as door mats when he powered over after good lead-up work from Ray Lee-Lo and Mason Grady.

Sloppy defending from the Dragons saw Ben Thomas cut back against the grain and evade Taine Basham’s tackle to score Cardiff’s third try in 15th minute. De Beer’s third successful conversion took the home side 21-7 ahead.

The home fans rose as one when Teddy Williams sold a huge dummy to race clear and only a last ditch tackle from Aneurin Owen denied the rampaging second row. He showed great composure to pop a try scoring pass to Tomos Williams who secured Cardiff’s bonus point inside 18 minutes.

Botham plunged over from close range to notch Cardiff’s fifth try and de Beer added his fourth conversion to put the home side 33-7 ahead after only 24 minutes.

Botham scored his second try from a training ground move close to the Dragons try-line and then Tomos Williams followed suit by scoring his brace after an electric break from Lee-Lo. De Beer’s conversion gave Cardiff a 45-7 halftime lead.

It took nine minutes of the second half for Cardiff to reach the half century mark when an electric burst from Kieron Assiratti saw the tighthead prop explode over the try-line.

Keddie stopped the rot when he parachuted over a Cardiff ruck. Cai Evan’s conversion brought the score to 50-14.

A penalty try and a yellow card to Rhys Litterick in 59th minute stopped Cardiff’s relentless assault before Cameron Winnettt sealed the deal in the 77th minute after Mason Grady tore down the touchline and off-loaded to the supporting full back as the Dragons slumped to a heavy defeat and firmly entrenched at the bottom of the points table.

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