THE Dragons nailed their apology for Boxing Day by edging to a tense 13-12 win against the Scarlets on New Year’s Day.

The United Rugby Championship triumph in the Newport rain won’t erase the damage of the Cardiff humiliation, but it was a start.

The nature of professional sport means that the 55-21 loss in the capital will never (and should never) be forgotten – it will forever be mentioned along with all the crushing lows.

The New Year’s Day win against the Scarlets in awful conditions will gradually fade in the memory, although it will probably linger as the ‘Sam Costelow derby’ courtesy of the Wales fly-half’s inexplicable late miss from the kicking tee.

However, it provided four important points for Dai Flanagan’s men that lifted them above the Sharks at the bottom of the URC.

The victory keeps them in touch with the Scarlets in the tussle to avoid being Wales’ worst team – could it go all the way to Judgement Day at Cardiff City Stadium – and the duo are in a scramble with the Sharks and Zebre to avoid finishing 16th.

There is nobody getting carried away at Rodney Parade as it’s just two league wins so far plus a European Challenge Cup triumph against Oyonnax.

But the derby win has eased some of the pressure that was building on head coach Flanagan after the Arms Park shambles.

Here are some talking points from the Scarlets win…

South Wales Argus: DESPAIR: Sam Costelow missed a pair of late kicks for the Scarlets against the DragonsDESPAIR: Sam Costelow missed a pair of late kicks for the Scarlets against the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


For those of us with enough Dragons derby wounds there were shades of the 2011 clash with the Scarlets.

On that occasion it was four misses from the tee by poor Lewis Robling that cost the hosts at Rodney Parade, this time it was Costelow who was the unlucky man.

Robling, a talented centre/fly-half, got the yips in that festive derby and four penalties he would usually slot went wide.

The Dragons went on to lose by four points after a late penalty by Aled Thomas, this time they were celebrating after Costelow pushed a tricky conversion he would normally nail before an incredible close range miss with seven minutes to go.

The diminutive playmaker, who was returning from injury, will bounce back and Flanagan had words "I just want to make a special mention for Sam Costelow, who I worked with for a while," said the former Scarlets back coach.

“That was very strange for Sam and people can't hold that against him. He is a fantastic player and we have to back him."

South Wales Argus: STARTERS: Dragons tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother, hooker James Benjamin and loosehead Rodrigo MartinezSTARTERS: Dragons tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother, hooker James Benjamin and loosehead Rodrigo Martinez (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


James Benjamin turns 30 in February and is currently on 83 Dragons appearances over 11 campaigns.

The forward hasn't hit double figures for a season since 2017/18 when he racked up 24 games as a key figure in the back row for Bernard Jackman.

Benjamin's ball-playing abilities and brain rather than brawn were key during that run of fixtures.

Back row riches, with the emergence of Aaron Wainwright, meant that the forward from Rogerstone slipped down the pecking order and the decision was made to experiment with him at hooker.

'Jumbo' was previously trialled as an inside centre and arguably Benjamin, a classy flanker, has been the victim of being messed around.

However, it could prolong his career as a professional if New Year’s Day was anything to go by.

Benjamin was immense in an 80-minute display against the Scarlets that was comfortably his high point as a front rower.

At 29, he should still have his best days ahead of him as a hooker and he doesn’t have the miles on the clock that other forwards his age do.

Elliot Dee is the Dragons’ best hooker while Bradley Roberts has done well since arriving from Ulster, even if he paid the price for the Arms Park debacle.

Benjamin has forced his way into the conversation – and deserves to keep the 2 jersey at Zebre next time out.

A word of praise for loosehead Rodrigo Martinez as well, the Argentina international was impressive and aggressive on his return to the XV.

South Wales Argus: SMASHED: Dragons winger Ewan Rosser is tackledSMASHED: Dragons winger Ewan Rosser is tackled (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The Dragons finished with Ewan Rosser on the wing, Harri Ackerman in midfield and Ryan Woodman in the second row – three players in single digits for pro appearances – while fly-half Will Reed and centre Aneurin Owen are still learning their trade.

The performance of Ackerman, only just 19, is worthy of particular praise after he was given a first Dragons start up against Johnny Williams. The Newbridge native didn’t take a step back against the powerful Wales centre.

Rosser is yet to really get the chance to show what he can do with ball in hand but the Wales sevens international did the basics well on a wet night, chasing kicks hard.

Woodman’s lineout prowess meant that he was chosen to replace George Nott, who passed a late fitness test, in the second row for the closing stages.

After previously operating as a blindside, it was another impressive cameo from a forward who is making big strides.

The Dragons have some exciting talent on their books but crucially the balance was right for them with Benjamin, Dan Lydiate, Rhodri Williams, Harri Keddie, Sean Lonsdale and the immense Aaron Wainwright providing leadership.

That has to be the blueprint when giving youth a chance over the next five months.