COMMENT: Sick of history repeating itself
YOU’D imagine that Lee Westwood gets a bit miffed when told ‘your time will come’ when he falls short in a major once again.
He must have to resist the temptation to lamp the rival that is holding the Claret Jug or wearing the Green Jacket, ‘Hell of a battle, Lee. You really had me worried on the back nine’.
Always the bridesmaid never the bride, and joining him on the top table and grinning through gritted teeth are Newport Gwent Dragons.
It is as predictable as Wales versus Australia – the Dragons will be plucky, spirited and aggressive but ultimately fall short and suffer a narrow defeat.
Their attitude can never be questioned but the hurdle is a mental one for the region, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The list of teams that have said ‘hey, you didn’t half give us a scare’ over a post-match beer is a lengthy one this season: Cardiff Blues (twice), Bayonne (twice), Northampton, the Ospreys and, after Thursday night, Wasps.
As always, there were positives in defeat – the tireless work of the back row, the energy, the physicality – but they get washed away because of the big L that is next to the game on the Dragons’ fixture list.
Captain Lewis Evans was only half joking when he said to me after the game, “you might as well dig out my interview from last time.”
The players are sick of saying the same things, I would rather not be writing what they said and you would rather not be reading it.
But Ashley Smith spoke the truth after the game when he said that they’ve just got to get on with it.
Talk of recruitment is fine but the only ones that can influence matters right now are those that currently have a Dragons logo on their chest.
“Things aren’t going to change until the end of the season so we just have to work hard as a group,” said the centre, who is in negotiations for a new deal.
“Nobody else is going to help us out and the only way is to keep getting out on the training pitch and hope that the rewards come in the coming weeks, starting against the Ospreys next week.
“It’s frustrating to keep getting so close but we are paid to win and victories are what we are judged on.
“Nobody is happy with the situation but we are not a downbeat camp, people are not moping and we are trying to be positive. It’s the only way.”
But there has to be a way of turning the corner, steps must be taken if the same mistakes are repeated.
The finger of blame has traditionally been pointed at the Dragons’ pack yet their recent failings are not down to a lack of grunt from the front five.
They have stood toe to toe with their rivals, the pack has been abrasive and the different combinations of the back row have all outplayed the opposition.
But the forwards must look back in dismay at what is going on behind them with missed kicks at goal, charge downs and the aimless booting of the ball downfield.
After Exeter beat the Dragons in December 2011, head coach Darren Edwards lamented their death by the boot of Argentina international Ignacio Mieres.
“There were no line breaks, no threats, just a huge kicking game. It’s pretty boring rugby but in fairness it is winning rugby,” he said.
Yet a Mieres type figure is exactly what is needed at the moment and, until the summer at least, the closest thing they have got to that is Steffan Jones.
The 10 jersey has been a problem all season long and led to Dan Evans moving forward from full-back.
The move was an initial success but things didn’t go to plan against either Cardiff Blues or Wasps with Evans at fly-half – and his booming left boot was badly missed at 15.
Jones, the best kicker at the region, has been frozen out but deserves a shot. He may have his frailties – as was shown by his blunder under a high ball just moments after a marvellous booming penalty against Wasps – but is worth a go.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained because at the moment the Dragons are like Michael Caine’ screw in the Italian job – they are a spirited bunch that get the hard work done only to slip up at the last moment.
There is no need for anybody to state “hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea” because the Dragons know exactly what they need to put right.
Unfortunately, at the moment, it is the execution that is letting them down.
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