Edwards: Forwards deserve praise after festive battles
THE FESTIVE period yielded just one league point for Newport Gwent Dragons but it did at least show that they have made strides up front.
Failure to provide a platform has long been a criticism of the Rodney Parade pack, yet accusing fingers couldn’t be pointed at numbers one to eight after the losses to Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys.
The forwards had the better of the Blues at the Arms Park on Boxing Day before standing firm against the Swansea-based region – who boasted an all-Wales front row – on New Year’s Eve.
In fact, the piano shifters would have been well within their rights to have a go at the piano players for wasting their efforts.
Dragons head coach Darren Edwards has hailed the performances of his deputies Rob Appleyard and Iestyn Thomas in getting the pack firing.
“I hope our pack of forwards get some credit now because people who have seen us over a number of seasons know the strides that they have made,” said Edwards.
“The power game of the Ospreys blew the Scarlets away (32-3 on Boxing Day) but we went toe to toe with them.
“They are a formidable scrummaging team but our performance was superb and full credit to Iestyn and Rob for the work that they have put in.
“Our front row forwards are so young and inexperienced but they are responding to the challenge and improving all the time.”
Edwards has stressed that any summer signings in the front row will not mean the current crop being thrown on the scrap heap.
All six props and hookers that featured in the festive derbies are under the age of 26 – Sam Parry (21), Owen Evans (23), Nathan Buck (23), Phil Price (24), Dan Way (25), Hugh Gustafson (25).
“We believe in these boys and have a duty to bring them through and whatever we do in terms of recruitment will also have their development in mind,” said Edwards.
“We know that we need to bolster our squad in that position – it’s a tough season with 30-odd games – but any new arrivals will be to play alongside the likes of Nathan Buck and Dan Way and help them come through.”
They will soon be rejoined at training by loosehead Aaron Coundley, who is nearing a return after rupturing a bicep in October’s loss to Wasps.