CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Dragons must try harder to pack out Rodney Parade
9:02am Thursday 12th September 2013 in Sport
THE Lyn Jones era started with a bang for Newport Gwent Dragons, it's just a shame more weren't there to witness it.
Last Friday was a terrific night at Rodney Parade with last season's RaboDirect Pro12 runners-up Ulster downed in front of a raucous crowd.
It was a hugely encouraging performance by a Dragons side that showed oodles of spirit and determination, much to the delight of their fans.
The noise was deafening as the home players successfully protected a seven-point lead at the death as the Ulstermen flung themselves at the try line.
It was loud but the attendance of 5,165 was pretty much the only disappointing aspect to a memorable evening.
The crowd was up on last season's 5,057 in the corresponding fixture but it was still pretty poor given that it was the first game of the season and the start of a new era following a really positive summer of change.
It shows that the hardcore of Dragons support remains but that there are plenty who are still to be convinced.
The management team have drawn a line under a horror 2012/13 but it's harder for those that part with their hard-earned cash to forget some pretty meek performances.
It's a pity more 'casual' fans weren't there against Ulster because there is no doubt it would have convinced them to return.
They would have seen the Dragons playing with heart for a hard-earned win in a tremendous atmosphere; it wasn't the most flowing game but the last quarter was terrific theatre.
The players were quick to express their gratitude to the fans after the game, declaring that the loud backing kept them going when they were under the pump.
The contrast will be stark when they are faced by 55,000 empty seats at Murrayfield tomorrow evening – Edinburgh won't benefit from fanatical backing.
"The supporters here are crazy," said former Ospreys boss Jones. "They are mad and long may that continue.
"It was a nightmare coming here as an opposition coach. I had a special relationship with the supporters in the Hazell Stand, they would romantically call my name out...
"The supporters here are special and it's a ground where they are right on top of the opposition, I've come here with some good sides in the past and they have cracked."
The Dragons are blessed to have an old-fashioned ground and it's up to those behind the scenes to pack out Rodney Parade.
The Scarlets head east next Friday, one of just two derby days in Newport this season.
After the feel-good factor of Ulster the Dragons should be targetting at least 8,000. Then it will be up to Andrew Coombs & Co to produce another performance to keep them coming.
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