THE Dragons failed to cause a United Rugby Championship upset against Leinster and it was a particularly costly defeat ahead of Saturday’s derby.

The Rodney Parade club will be without a pair of Wales back rowers against the Ospreys in Newport (kick-off 5.15pm) after Aaron Wainwright failed an HIA and then Taine Basham was sent off.

That put the tin hat on a frustrating afternoon against Leinster, who ran out 33-10 winners after running in five tries.

Here are some talking points from the contest…


Basham is at his best when he confrontational, winning collisions and powering through with ball in hand.

He is a player that can come up with big moments – hence Warren Gatland picked him to provide something different at the World Cup – but he produced a ridiculous one on Sunday.

Basham faces a discplinary hearing after being red-carded for catching Ross Byrne in the head with his elbow.

It was a cheap shot and a mind-blowing offence given that he is a player who has grown up in an age of TMOs and camera angles galore.

The blow was a glancing one but it was sufficient to deserve a dismissal and a probable ban until the start of the Challenge Cup at the earliest.

Basham should know where the line is by now – he is 24, has played 83 times for the Dragons and won 16 caps.

He was sent off for the Dragons against Worcester for a dangerous tackle in 2019, that coming after he got away with a daft knee-drop at a breakdown against Ulster in a Celtic Cup tie that earned a rebuke from Dean Ryan.

Basham is a fiery player who needs to play on the edge but the nature of Sunday’s offence, added to a yellow against Georgia for sparking a World Cup melee, won’t have impressed Gatland in the stands and he is blessed with a glut of options for the Six Nations.

It could also put him down the Dragons pecking order with Ollie Griffiths and Harri Keddie aiming to be back in the mix for this weekend’s derby.

Fingers crossed Basham learns from this, if he doesn't then the club have other top operators in the back row.

South Wales Argus: DESPAIR: The Dragons after their defeat to LeinsterDESPAIR: The Dragons after their defeat to Leinster (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The Dragons have paid the price for failing to finish the job when in a commanding position against Edinburgh.

That added to the pressure ahead of Cardiff, when their flat performance was one of the worst for years.

A trip to Munster and home encounter with Leinster were always going to be difficult but they certainly weren’t awful on Sunday.

In fact, if the Dragons had played to that level then they probably would have ended their derby drought against Cardiff such was the poor quality of that encounter.

Teams need to be perfect to beat Leinster and the Dragons certainly weren’t that, albeit conditions were tricky.

They stayed in the fight for much of the first half despite mounting scrum penalties but the key moments were shortly before the break.

The Irish province scored with a crafty tap penalty then 56 seconds after the restart when they broke away after Rio Dyer’s handling error. A 7-3 game approaching half-time turned into a 21-3 one.

South Wales Argus: Dragons centre Aneurin Owen is pumped up against LeinsterDragons centre Aneurin Owen is pumped up against Leinster (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Aneurin Owen made his first start since March 2022 and the ball-playing centre was the Dragons’ stand-out player.

The 23-year-old from Newport is a class act who kept Wales centre Nick Tompkins out of the XV in 2021 before suffering injury misfortune with a fractured ankle, hamstring strain then knee injury in a freak collision.

The Dragons have strong midfield options in captain Steff Hughes, Jack Dixon and Sio Tomkinson, plus Max Clark if he returns from the loan at Cardiff.

However, they would do well to just give Owen games because he has shown the tenacity and physicality in defence while his ability to play flat and distribute is unrivalled.

Hughes is the skipper but it would be interesting to see how Owen would fare alongside explosive Tomkinson or strong stalwart Dixon.