HEAD coach Darren Edwards has acknowledged the pressing need for Newport Gwent Dragons to swap plucky defeats for victories.
Just like the derby defeat to Cardiff Blues, the Rodney Parade region emerged with plenty of credit from their narrow Amlin Challenge Cup loss in Bayonne on Thursday evening.
They had their noses in front for much of the game in the south of France and led 22-18 until a late try by Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips broke their hearts.
It was a performance that earned the Dragons plenty of praise yet they head into Thursday’s clash with Wasps on a four-game losing streak.
“It’s another game that got away from us,” lamented Edwards, whose side were 19-6 up with half an hour left.
“There were so many pleasing aspects of that performance but we should have seen it home.
“The boys are gutted, totally devastated, because that game was there to be won and we should have been good enough to get over the line.
“I feel it’s just a case of getting over that hump and dealing with the pressure that will inevitably come at the end of a game.
“A team will always throw everything at you in the closing stages, especially when at home, and in those situations you cannot afford to give away penalties or allow little mistakes to creep in.
“Bayonne brought on the likes of (former New Zealand tighthead prop) Neemia Tialata and Mike Phillips.
“They put a lot of heat on us in the final quarter and concentration, control and discipline becomes key.
“It’s just so frustrating that we couldn’t quite hang on because a lot of our guys were experiencing their first big game in France and getting a win would have been a massive hurdle cleared.”
Wasps will head to Rodney Parade with top spot in Pool Three secure because a five-point haul against Italian whipping boys Mogliano is inevitable today.
But Dai Young’s side, who unbeaten in five and are chasing a Aviva Premiership playoff spot, will be attempting to secure a home quarter-final.
“Wasps are playing really well at the moment and we will have our hands full,” said Edwards.
“But our squad have got to take encouragement from the way that they performed in France and will be determined to finish well in Europe.”
The Dragons will monitor injuries to wing Mike Poole (head), centre Andy Tuilagi (hamstring) and lock Adam Jones (hip) after they were forced off at the Stade Jean Dauger.
* Newport Gwent Dragons’ performance in Bayonne earned great praise from the pundits in the
Sky Sports studio:
– FORMER England fly-half, and former Bassaleg School pupil, Stuart Barnes: “Darren Edwards said before the game that he wanted a performance and he got one.
“They must be feeling devastated because they played like it was a big cup final and put everything in.
“When they get on the plane to go home Darren Edwards should say to them ‘that was an outstanding effort’.
“Though they’ve lost and they’ve had a difficult season, they go into the Wasps game with no pressure on them.
“They can pick a strong team with half of the youngsters and you can see the Dragons starting to rise. It’s a significant performance.”
– EX-WALES captain Ieuan Evans: “There are a lot of young players in that side and they showed endeavour, energy and fighting spirit.
“They didn’t come away with the win that they perhaps deserved, but there was an awful lot to take satisfaction from.”
– ENGLAND World Cup winner Will Greenwood: “It was an unbelievably brave effort, I was really impressed.
"It was a brilliant performance from Ieuan Jones at number eight. Him and Lewis Evans were outstanding, not just with the ball they were huge defensively.”