THE Dragons are bottom of the United Rugby Championship after home defeat to the title-chasing Bulls, but the 31-10 scoreline didn’t tell the whole story in Newport.

The Rodney Parade club were well beaten by the second-placed South Africans but made them work for the five points.

The Dragons were 10-3 down at the break after a try by Kurt-Lee Arendse and then the Bulls scored a try of the season contender early in the second half, flanker Mpilo Gumede going over after fine work by World Cup winners Arendse, Canan Moodie and Willie le Roux.

Scrum-half Embrose Papier sealed the win late on before a consolation score by wing Corey Baldwin.

However, the Bulls had the final say with the clock in the red when hooker Johan Grobbelaar went over from a driving lineout for a bonus.

Here are some talking points from the URC clash…


When Dai Flanagan stands in front of his squad to start the week with some analysis he should quickly accompany it was the clip of Rhodri Williams sparking a dust-up.

The scrum-half, listed as 12st 10lbs, had a bulky South African forward in each hand (Gerhard Steenekamp and Wilco Louw, both just shy of 20st) before the rest of the teams joined in with the disagreement.

It was a moment that shows what we want from the Dragons – we know their limitations but love to see them get stuck into teams in Newport.

There was plenty more evidence of that in what was a fairly encouraging performance.

The Dragons don’t want to be plucky losers but there was no shame in that against a South African heavyweight hunting the URC title.

This was a display that was a million miles away from the shambles at Glasgow during the Six Nations when the Warriors really should have inflicted an 80-point drubbing after line breaks galore.

Like at Ulster, they kept scrapping and that led to them still having a chance of a bonus point with the clock in the red when it was instead the Bulls that went on to get their extra.

The Dragons were wobbling at 17-3 early in the second half when the visitors were really starting to purr but they managed to regain their composure and stop the scoreboard ticking along.

They set the tone in the opening exchanges with some smart play that was similar to the pre-Six Nations France.

The Dragons shifted the ball and gave it some width but then were smart when nothing materialised and put boot to ball with grubbers to keep the Bulls in their own half.

They avoided a set-piece game and showed plenty of guts, but more will be needed on Friday…


The Dragons host Zebre on Good Friday and it must be a third URC win of the campaign.

Fail and there can be no talk of encouragement or building for next season with young players who are learning heaps.

The Saturday afternoon results went against both the Dragons and the Italians in the scrap to avoid being the bottom club in the URC.

The Sharks beat Ulster to climb off bottom and it was a performance that suggests more will come in Durban.

The Scarlets, whose two previous successes were against Cardiff, struck at the death to beat Benetton and stretch their lead over the Dragons.

Flanagan’s men won three on the spin in Newport before being overpowered by the Sharks in the Challenge Cup then the Bulls.

There can’t be many sets of supporters who are more long-suffering than Dragons fans and they simply must be rewarded with a win to set up their Easter weekend.

They have to embrace that pressure to get a win that can set up the rest of the run-in.

South Wales Argus: RETURN: Wales hooker Elliot Dee on the charge for the Dragons against the BullsRETURN: Wales hooker Elliot Dee on the charge for the Dragons against the Bulls (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The Dragons’ discipline was pretty good to avoid giving the Bulls the opportunity to get rumbling but they did concede a pair of tries when down to 14.

Some yellow cards are understandable and even acceptable, but these certainly weren’t.

Will Reed was daft when kicking the ball out of the scrum-half’s hands in the first half and Glasgow would have been livid when Elliot Dee allowed the Bulls the chance to get their bonus at the death with a slap down at the breakdown.

The Wales hooker was aiming for the arm rather than the ball but it was a frustratingly silly error from a player who had such a strong and solid Six Nations with Wales.

Neither offence was in the 22 when there was serious peril and cool heads will be needed against Zebre.

South Wales Argus: DYNAMIC: Taine Basham produced a strong performance for the Dragons against the BullsDYNAMIC: Taine Basham produced a strong performance for the Dragons against the Bulls (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The Dragons went with six forwards on the bench to combat the Bulls’ physicality and it must be tempting to go with the same again for Zebre.

Granted, it leaves a side vulnerable if there is an early injury in the backs but a 6:2 split plays to the strengths of the Rodney Parade club.

It will surely be Matthew Screech, George Nott and Ben Carter again in the second row while current Wales internationals Taine Basham and Aaron Wainwright have to start, probably alongside warhorse Dan Lydiate.

Sean Lonsdale was a strong performer against the Bulls while Harrison Keddie is a quality operator who adds oomph and brings the best out of others.

Flanagan will be tempted to select forwards who he knows will make a big impact rather than selecting another back who might only be needed in an emergency.