Captain Coombs rallies his troops

NEWPORT Gwent Dragons captain Andrew Coombs has called on his side to “keep their heads up” for their next challenging away day showdown which sees them clash with Connacht on Saturday after last week’s mauling at Bordeaux-Bègles.

The second row was one of three forwards sent to the sin bin for the hosts as their Amlin Challenge Cup dreams were dashed in a heavy and disappointing 32-13 setback.

Their hopes of reaching the competition’s quarter-finals for only the second time are all but over after Bordeaux-Bègles, coached by French legend Raphaël Ibañez, took them apart up front with their powerful forwards in brutal fashion.

Starved of territory and possession for the majority of the encounter, the Dragons gave away 18 penalties and had Coombs, blindside flanker Lewis Evans and lock Rob Sidoli off the field for 30 minutes between them after they received yellow cards.

The French took full advantage, their Argentina Test outside-half Nicolas Sanchez making them pay with his five penalties, the hosts also scoring three tries in a ruthless, if unexciting, manner at Bègles’ Stade André Moga.

With their partisan crowd roaring them home and an excellent Dax-style band entertaining their fans, it certainly wasn’t the great European adventure the visitors had hoped for.

So it’s back to the drawing board for the Dragons who had been on a real high after demolishing Bordeaux-Bègles in the first of the two back to back games a fortnight ago with a bonus point 40-24 triumph at Rodney Parade.

With Pat Lam’s Toulouse-conquering Connacht looming at the Sportsground in Galway on the weekend, Coombs refused to get disheartened and he urged his men to banish their away day blues.

“We have to keep our heads up for when we got to Connacht on Saturday and try and take the positives from the defeat to Bordeaux-Bègles because we are bigger than that,” the 29-year-old Wales international said.

“They were very powerful but in the first half we gave them a platform to play with and gave them too many penalties so they could get their driving lineout working.

“We only have ourselves to blame – you can’t afford to give away three yellow cards.

“It was a brave effort by us – as it always is with the Dragons – but we are more than that now.”

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