DEAN Ryan admitted his Dragons team paid the price for their scrum struggles as they were beaten 31-29 by Welsh rivals Cardiff while he also questioned the decisions of referee Ben Whitehouse.

In their last game before the United Rugby Championship takes a break and the focus switches to the international game, Dragons did outscore their opponents by four tries to three.

Taylor Davies, Mesake Doge, Rio Dyer and Joe Maksymiw all crossed and it was enough to earn the men from Rodney Parade two losing bonus points.

But it could well have been more because Cardiff lost centre Rey Lee-Lo to a second-half red card for a shoulder to the head of Sam Davies. Dyer and Maksymiw scored late on, but Dragons fell short.


“We came second at scrum time – nobody is going to hide from that and it would be foolish to,” said Dragons director of rugby Ryan.

“It doesn’t derail anything. It’s not just an area we’ve competed well in, we’ve excelled there, but this was just one of those days.

“It had an impact on the game in terms of field position to start with and ultimately it gave them space to hide when they went down to 14 men. We couldn’t get out of it.

“When we tried, we weren’t as accurate as we would want to be because of the pressure.

“We know we can threaten sides. You could see how fast we came out and how dangerous we were irrespective of our internationals not being here, but we also know there are areas of the game that can be vulnerable to us. Sometimes that’s the contest – they didn’t want to go fast and we did. They wanted to be in a scrum and we didn’t. It ended up being tight and we definitely came second.

“We’re all in on the attacking game we want, but we weren’t accurate in the second half and players went into solo mode.

“We don’t have the resources Cardiff have up front and Leon Brown and Elliot Dee are not around for us. That is the reality for the Dragons. Was that (scrum struggles) a surprise? Not really.

“When we did get chances, we snatched a bit. We can still win games when we are coming second in certain areas, but we have got to make sure our areas are the best they can be.”

Dragons made a really lively start at Cardiff Arms Park with Dyer and Jordan Williams to the forefront of proceedings.

Taylor Davies went over immediately and Doge made it two with Cardiff scrum-half Lloyd Williams in the sin bin for tackling Jordan Williams high.

But Cardiff came back to lead 18-14 at the break thanks to tries from Lloyd Williams and former Dragon Hallam Amos.

Lee-Lo was dismissed in the 53rd minute just after a Cardiff penalty try. Sam Davies and Jarrod Evans swapped kicks but Cardiff held on despite Dyer’s and Maksymiw’s efforts.

Ryan was unhappy with Whitehouse for his decision to penalise the Dragons for being in front of Sam Davies when he restarted after Evans kicked three points.

He also questioned whether a try for Ben Fry should have been ruled out. Whitehouse and TMO Sean Brickell decided Cardiff’s Matthew Morgan had been taken out in the air in the build-up.

“It was just a contact. The bloke fell on the ground and then someone came in and stole the ball,” Ryan said. “That’s simple and you can stick that in whatever headline you want, but that was a try. “I’d love to go through every kick-off and say ‘Is there not always a man in front?’ If that’s the case then they are accurate penalties, but if it’s not, then you have to ask why he (Whitehouse) chose then to intervene. He gave three very technical offences against us and one on Cardiff.

“It just escapes me. If they were the only moments in the game then well done him, but if not, let’s be consistent about the key areas that impact the game.

“I didn’t see the red card at the time so I was surprised when he came back for it, but I’m sure in the age of freeze frames it will be pretty accurate. We’ve had a few over the last few weeks which haven’t been given against us.”

Dragons played this game without their six Wales squad members who are preparing for Saturday’s first autumn Test with New Zealand. All six are forwards and their absence showed in Cardiff.

Dragons don’t play again in the URC until November 27 meaning they have more than a month off. The players will have a week of rest and when they return, Ryan will give his fringe men opportunities. He reported no injuries from the Cardiff game.

“We got two points but my head is in the space of ‘How could we be better?’ and there are areas where we can be,” Ryan said. “I’m really pleased for the guys that came in and we have to keep working. We’re playing well but need to be smarter about the things we do well.

“That’s our quarter-term report. We’ve got a week off now and then we’re going to have an in-house game because we’ve got so many guys who haven’t played enough rugby.

“We’re hopefully going to play Scarlets A on November 12 just to get those guys a game.

“We will try to freshen up our players who have played four or five matches so we can come back in for Edinburgh and Glasgow with a bit of momentum.”