IT may be harsh to lay too much into the Newport Gwent Dragons after the full-timers were undone by the semi-professionals of the Gwent Select but in all honesty this was a game they should never have lost.
And there is no doubt that the cream of Gwent’s Premiership sides Cross Keys, Newport and Bedwas thoroughly deserved their victory.
Coached by the capable trio of Steve Law, Greg Woods and Jon Bryant, the equally proficient players of the Gwent Select were gutsy, determined and defended like demons.
It was an ugly win in a match seriously low on quality but victorious captain, Keys’ abrasive and able skipper Rob Nash and his men will scarcely care after lowering Dragons colours at Rodney Parade.
Dragons head coach Darren Edwards had spoken before the game how he was looking at the Premiership boys to show him what they could do with a view of making the step up to regional rugby down the line.
Players like Nash, his Pandy Park teammates, hooker Gerwyn Price and second row Dan Hodge, and his partner, Bedwas’ up and coming Craig Lodge (the 21-year-old and 6ft 6in lock from Cwmbran who trained with the Dragons over the summer), all had fine games for Gwent Select.
For the Dragons the positives were a little shorter in supply.
True it was far from a full strength squad but there were some first team players included like new signings Tom Prydie and Daniel Evans, the Wales internationals making their Dragons debuts.
Popular wing Mike Poole played his first game since October after overcoming his third major knee operation and came through unscathed, replaced as a precaution just after half an hour by another Wales cap in Will Harries.
Gwent Select more than matched the Dragons up front but behind the region had the definite edge on paper but were completely add odds to press home any advantage.
It is true, in a scrappy game where momentum was difficult to build, the Dragons forwards failed to provide much of a platform.
But there was a lack of leadership among the backs to do something about it.
Good news for Dragons fans is that their new lock Ian Nimmo, signed in the summer from the Cornish Pirates, made a prominent debut.
The 27-year-old put his 6ft 7in and 18st 8lb frame around and the colourful second row is said to have already become a popular squad member.
The lineout went well for the region with former prop Hugh Gustafson having a good day throwing the ball in in his new life as a hooker.
Bedwas outside half Richard Powell also had a good day, scoring all his side’s points from three penalties and his converted interception try, which proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Gwent Select started the game as they meant to go on and led 6-0 after just over a quarter of an hour.
The Dragons started to get their act together and went into the lead after 20 minutes when No 8 Tom Brown crashed over for a try after centre Pat Leach went close, outside half Steffan Jones kicking the difficult conversion.
But they were merely flattering to deceive because Powell did well to pounce on a pass and beat the chasing Jones to score that interception try just seven minutes later.
The Dragons reduced the deficit to 13-10 on the half an hour mark.
Few would have thought that would be their last score of the game.
Powell’s third penalty in the 53rd minute gave Gwent Select a six-point lead they rarely threatened to surrender in an eminently forgettable second half.
Dragons team: D Evans, T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon, M Poole, S Jones, J Evans, A Coundley, H Gustafson, D Way, I Nimmo, A Coombs (capt), J Groves, D Waters, T Brown. Replacements all used: S Parry, N Williams, T Ryan, J Tyler, H Stoddart, I Jones, W Evans, L Robling, W Harries, A Tuilagi.
Dragons scorers: Try – Tom Brown, Conversion – Steffan Jones, Penalty – S Jones.
Gwent Select team: G O’Driscoll, K Baller, A Awcock, R Wardle, E Frewen, R Powell, R Downes, R Cornock, G Price, K Gaye, D Hodge, C Lodge, P Sargent, R Nash (capt), J Thomas. Replacements all used: R Hutchinson, A Lott, M Jones, K Maiden, C Attwell, A Powell, A Quick, D Gunter, A Davies, M John.
Gwent Select scorers: Try – Richard Powell, Conversion – R Powell, Penalties – R Powell.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (WRU)