THE Dragons produced a battling performance to push Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster all the way at Rodney Parade on Friday.

Dean Ryan’s side were trailing 35-15 in the closing stages before a dramatic finale in which Luke Baldwin and Josh Lewis crossed.

Sam Davies’ 80th-minute conversion put the Dragons in bonus point range and they opted not to roll the dice and chase a remarkable winner.

Here are the talking points from the clash at Rodney Parade…

South Wales Argus: BONUS: Sam Davies kicked a conversion then opted to settle for a bonusBONUS: Sam Davies kicked a conversion then opted to settle for a bonus


Let’s be positive, the Dragons were priced as 23-point underdogs on home soil against the champions yet gave them a scare to finish just six back.

They haven’t been within a score of Leinster since beating them in January 2016… yet should they have tried to turn one point into four?

I argue yes, but Dean Ryan backed the decision made by Sam Davies to protect the consolation and he could well have had teammates telling him they were goosed.

“If you are sat at home on your couch then you don’t quite understand how heavy that pitch is,” said the director of rugby.

“I don’t think that we were going 80 metres and we are at a stage where a point against Leinster is quite a smart move at the moment, and we’ve got to go and get some points next week [against Zebre].”

But what were the Dragons really protecting? Players won’t look back on a consolation bonus when they hang up their boots.

Ryan suggested it could be a point that makes a difference in their battle for fourth with Glasgow, a tussle that might have Champions Cup implications if the decision to expand Europe’s premier tournament because of coronavirus is repeated.

It was increased to 24 teams "on an exceptional basis" in 2020/21 but if it's back to normal next season then fourth won't be good enough.

But this was a shot at glory, albeit the chances of going the length of the field for a third try were slim.

It would have said more for their mindset and attitude to have a crack at earning a penalty that could have led to them booting to Leinster territory and chancing their arm. (The Irish province conceded 16 penalties and discipline was a huge problem for them all night).

Had the Dragons turned it over then the Irish side would have booted it out. Had the Dragons given away a penalty then the Irish side would have tapped and then booted it out.

If supporters had been allowed in the ground then they would have been furious at such a pragmatic approach.

However, the players had slogged it out for over 80 minutes in those conditions and made their call, now they just have to follow with four points from Parma.

South Wales Argus: LIVELY: Ben Fry (left) was in the thick of the actionLIVELY: Ben Fry (left) was in the thick of the action


Ben Fry has enjoyed a breakthrough season and he is the sort of character who is relishing the Dragons’ back row problems.

The absence of other stars has allowed him to be the main man and it was him that provided some dynamism and big moments in a workmanlike pack.

He produced three turnovers, made 10 carries and put in some telling tackles.

Fry is 22 and has just 11 professional games to his name yet isn’t shy of putting himself about and getting in the faces of senior teammates in training.

In the A game against the Scarlets he went out of his way to ‘chinwag’ with returning Wales prop Rob Evans. He is spikey, abrasive and a pain in the backside.

Fry won’t settle for playing second fiddle when Aaron Wainwright returns from Wales duty and Ross Moriarty, Ollie Griffiths, Taine Basham and Harri Keddie are back to fitness.

And a warning – the former Wales Under-20s international is also England-qualified!

South Wales Argus:


At the start of the season both lock Ben Carter and centre Aneurin Owen were 19 yet here they were impressing against the Leinster machine.

The way that Carter has taken to professional rugby in such a testing position has been remarkable while Owen oozes class from midfield.

The 20-year-olds have long been tipped as ones to watch by the Dragons academy and it’s their diligence and humble attitude off the field that makes them such exciting prospects.

Plenty come through with talent but it’s the extras and the willingness to listen and learn that Carter will have Rowlands as a mentor, Owen is profiting from Jamie Roberts’ pearls of wisdom.

The Dragons have a pair of crackers with the ability to go all the way to the top, potentially in the next couple of years.

South Wales Argus: IMPACT: Greg Bateman performed strongly off the benchIMPACT: Greg Bateman performed strongly off the bench


The Dragons haven’t tasted success since beating Glasgow at Scotstoun at the start of December, a win that was down to a botched conversion.

A consequence of putting the ball dead against Leinster is that they have to back it up with four points in Parma.

Ryan has some welcome selection headaches for Zebre after the bench made an impact last night, something they failed to do against Connacht.

Ellis Shipp and Greg Bateman did superbly but it might be wise to ask them to repeat the trick as impact subs.

The same applies for number eight Dan Baker if there is any good news on the fitness front with back rowers.

If new-dad Jamie Roberts is good to travel then he could slot in for Jack Dixon while it must be tempting to go with the approach that did for Benetton in Treviso with Josh Lewis at 15.