THE Dragons once again failed to get off to a winning start in the United Rugby Championship after familiar failings in a 22-17 defeat to Edinburgh.

The Rodney Parade club led from the second minute to the 73rd yet had to settle for a losing bonus point against the Scots in Newport.

Centre Sio Tomkinson and wing Corey Baldwin went over in the opening quarter for the Dragons and they led 14-3 at the break.

It was 17-9 with 65 minutes gone when scrum-half Ben Vellacott scuttled over for Edinburgh and then the visitors took the spoils thanks to the right boot of fly-half Ben Healy.

The Dragons haven’t won on opening weekend since beating Ulster in 2013 and this was one that got away.

Here are some talking points from Rodney Parade…


There should have been two home wins at Rodney Parade in the space of 19 hours.

Newport County took the lead three times against Walsall on Friday but conceded a leveller in the sixth minute of added time.

The Exiles at least got a share of the spoils while the Dai Flanagan’s men suffered defeat.

There can be no more ‘plucky Dragons’ in such situations, the squad suffered narrow defeats to Sharks, Cardiff, Pau, the Lions and Connacht last season and vowed to learn the lessons.

Alas, they picked up where they left off with an infuriating failure to finish the job from a strong position.

There were a number of key moments but one early in the second half stands out when an Angus O’Brien 50-22 was followed by a Dragons penalty.

They turned down the shot at goal and the chance to make it 20-6, Edinburgh held them out and swiftly went down the other end to make it 17-9.

Given the Dragons’ inability to get over the line last season, the decision to go for knockout blows rather than keep ticking along and build scoreboard pressure on the Scots was baffling.

This was a huge missed opportunity and budget disparities mean there aren’t too many of them in the URC; I’d love to have egg on my face but I find it hard to see them beating Munster, Leinster, Glasgow, Ulster or the South African gang.

It also means next Sunday’s clash with Cardiff, who the Dragons haven’t beaten since 2015, is arguably a must-win despite it being round two.

South Wales Argus: KICK: The Dragons, and fly-half Angus O'Brien, used the boot well in the first halfKICK: The Dragons, and fly-half Angus O'Brien, used the boot well in the first half (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The Dragons got into a position of strength thanks to having a good balance to their game; they kicked a lot but also caused problems with strike plays and posed questions with ball in hand, with wing Jared Rosser having a fine game.

Yet when the pressure went on, the hosts overplayed with too many offloads and runs from inside their own territory.

Yes, the Dragons were playing into a breeze after the break but they lost their heads and were too expansive and excited when they should have reined it in.

There was more than a hint of panic with wide passes in what was a one-score game with the hosts getting too desperate, too soon when the Scots hit the front.


There were some grumbles about Eoghan Cross from the stands but I felt the Irish official had a pretty good game.

He did whistle the Dragons off the park in the second half but that was down to their ill-discipline.

Rarely will a team win with a penalty count of 17 penalties, it was way, way too high and they were unable to change the momentum.

That’s where the bench comes in, was it more solid than dynamic? The Dragons were without tighthead Leon Brown, who was deemed not quite ready for a cameo, and impactful Wales back rowers Aaron Wainwright and Taine Basham after World Cup duty.

They needed a big moment to change the mood of the half and get the crowd back into it but the swing never came.

South Wales Argus: OPENER: Sio Tomkinson went over for the Dragons in the second minuteOPENER: Sio Tomkinson went over for the Dragons in the second minute (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Let’s finish with a positive, the Dragons were very impressive in the opening quarter.

Tomkinson’s score was a cracker after Steff Hughes and O’Brien had created a line break for Rosser, who was a constant menace in the first half.

The kicking game was strong – and another turning point of the game was when an attempted 50-22 went just the wrong side of the corner flag – and the defensive effort was impressive to frustrate Edinburgh in the 22.

The Dragons are at their best when playing at tempo but the second half proves that there is a time and a place.

Finally, a word of praise for Ollie Griffiths - he was typically dynamic (especially in the first half) with some nice carries and four turnovers on his 100th appearance. The back rower will be vital against Cardiff.

Dragons: C Evans (Reed 65); Baldwin (Dixon 57), Tomkinson, Hughes (captain), J Rosser; O’Brien, R Williams (Blacker 63); Martinez (R Jones 63), Roberts, Fairbrother (Yendle 63), Screech (J Davies 69), Carter, Nott (Lonsdale 63), Keddie (Lonsdale 35-40), Griffiths.

Replacements not used: Benjamin.

Scorers: tries – Tomkinson, Baldwin; conversions – C Evans (2); penalty – C Evans.

Edinburgh scorers: tries – Vellacott; conversions – Healy; penalties – B Healy (4).

Referee: Eoghan Cross (Ireland).

Attendance: 4,212.