COLUMNS are a place for forthright opinions, an opportunity for a writer to vent their spleen, to adopt a stance and hammer the point home.

Through the years that has been pretty easy with the Dragons; frequent failure has presented many chances to lament their shortcomings.

After last Saturday's debacle, a nine-try home hammering played in front of a sub-3,000 crowd that thinned significantly as the Leinster scores kept coming, some might expect an 800-word rant calling for the head of Bernard Jackman.

Instead, something that some controversy-courting publications and radio stations would detest – sitting on the fence.

I don't know what the Dragons should do next and I don't know whether they are any closer to an upturn in fortunes.

I don't have strong opinion on Jackman's future. The first half of the season has been a massive disappointment given the strength of the squad compared to past campaigns but a change at the top won't magically cure all the ills.

I understand the stance taken by supporters who want change at the top, yet I sympathise with the plight of the management.

Stick or twist? Goodness knows, can I tell you in a month?

If head coach Jackman was to be shown the door then the decision would be backed up by his record of P43, W11, L30, D2.

At most clubs such a pitiful record would be enough for inclusion on Fighting Talk's Defend the Indefensible, but the Dragons are no ordinary club.

There is an argument for stating that Jackman's job is the hardest in professional rugby.

That doesn't excuse the mistakes made by the former Ireland hooker since heading to Newport from Grenoble, nor does it mean that he should be backed to the hilt regardless of results.

But it does provide reason for some caution when some suggest swinging the axe and making another change.

Would doing that just put us in a Groundhog Day situation? Statements asking for patience and about the need to go through pain while blooding youth, words uttered from Darren Edwards through to Jackman, would just be repeated by a new voice.

The backing given to Jackman by his predecessors Paul Turner (on Twitter) and Lyn Jones (in this paper) should provide him with some comfort.

The pair of experienced coaches, who both had better records than the current boss, know the challenges of the job and urge some calm.

As Jones put it: "There is no easy answer, it's a business that has been run down over nearly two decades".


When Jackman was brought in by the Welsh Rugby Union it was clear that patience was going to be needed, that there is no silver bullet to turn around the fortunes at Rodney Parade.

The new regime set things in motion and one-and-a-half years later, despite the alarm at a lack of progress, the 'project' might as well be given a little bit more time rather than ripping it up and starting again.

The PRO14's lack of relegation allows more caution compared to the Gallagher Premiership, where poor results are catastrophic for business.

However, keeping one's counsel about the Jackman era may become more difficult over the next month. This is a massive block of fixtures for the head coach to show that he does deserve to remain in the hotseat.

The odds will be long on them winning any of their next five with away trips to Northampton, Clermont Auvergne, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets plus a home encounter with the Ospreys in the middle of the festive derby streak.

Coaches have an easy out when they claim that 'performance is key' but that is genuinely the case for Franklin's Gardens and especially the Stade Marcel Michelin – the French side have the attacking potential to make the Leinster encounter seem nip and tuck.

The Dragons must head into the derbies in reasonable shape and then they have to get some momentum for 2019 by ending that nightmare four-year, 22-game run of misery against Welsh rivals.

Fail and the dissenting voices will get louder and the pressure will tell; it is the supporters that hold the key.

Attendances have plummeted in recent years (forget the announced crowd figures) and there is a danger that Newport County's promotion push will soon see football as the sport bringing more punters through the turnstiles at one of rugby's most historic grounds.

How many season ticket holders would happily commit to renewing for 2019/20 now? How many businesses will be happy to continue backing a failing side?

It's the classic chicken or the egg scenario at the Dragons when it comes to increasing the budget, how do the commercial team do that without results, how do you get results without the spending power…

This can't go on, somehow the cycle needs to be broken and Jackman needs to show that he is a coach who can make a team outperform its meagre budget, as Turner used to manage.

There are no signs of the Dragons hierarchy getting itchy trigger fingers just yet but heading into January with no progress could change that.

The next five games will shape opinion.

Those that are in the anti-Jackman camp are entrenched but those who are unsure need to be given some evidence of brighter times ahead.