THE Dragons need to find their finishers for next season after a campaign of near-misses at Rodney Parade.

Dai Flanagan’s men gave the Stormers a real scare on Friday night, even if the 44-21 scoreline suggests it was a routine win for the United Rugby Championship play-off hopefuls.

The Dragons led 21-16 inside the final quarter thanks to tries by back row forwards Harri Keddie and Aaron Wainwright, nine points from the boot of Will Reed and Angus O’Brien’s conversion.

However, the Stormers’ power game eventually told and they scored four tries in the closing stages to bag a bonus-point win that could well extend their season into the quarter-finals.

South Wales Argus: CHARGE: The Stormers stretched clear late on against the DragonsCHARGE: The Stormers stretched clear late on against the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The Dragons have played 11 games on home soil in all competitions with wins against the Ospreys, Scarlets, Oyonnax and Zebre.

They started the campaign with two big missed opportunities against Edinburgh and Cardiff while they have been in with a shout of causing upsets on a number of occasions.

The Dragons have led in the last quarter of six games, winning three of them, while they were level against Connacht and one score down on the Sharks.

Against Cardiff they were seven points down at the death and chasing a draw and the Bulls were only 17-3 up for much of the second half before pulling away and getting a bonus with the clock in the red.

Only on one occasion – Leinster in November – have the Dragons been second best by a distance in Newport.

“Everything that we spoke about in the week, for 65 minutes we executed really well,” said Flanagan after the Stormers loss.

“We kept running into the seams that they were leaving, we kept the ball, our collisions were very good and we turned them because a line speed defence hates that.

“Dane Blacker set the tone in the first minute [with a chip to the corner] and said ‘you’re going to have to keep getting out of there if you’re going to blitz’.

“Then the last 15 minutes we did everything that we said we wouldn’t do, we were offloading when going backwards, feeding them, not killing bouncing balls, then missed tackles killed us.”

The Dragons have earned respect and been a tough nut to crack in Newport. On the road is another matter with just two sob stories – costly losses to Pau and Zebre in the Challenge Cup.

South Wales Argus: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu crosses at the death for the Stormers at Rodney ParadeSacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu crosses at the death for the Stormers at Rodney Parade (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


With Ben Carter suspended, the Dragons had no locks and two hookers on their bench.

The hope is that the recruitment drive, which has put an emphasis on bulk, will provide a bit more depth and power to finish strongly next season.

However, it is not only a physical problem with the Dragons needing to be stronger mentally when games are nip and tuck in the final quarter.

“It’s definitely both,” admitted Flanagan. “Physically if we can do that for 65 minutes then why can’t we do it for 75, 80.

“But losing is a habit, just like winning. We need to turn the tide because we have been in games, specifically at Rodney Parade.

“The crowd is unbelievable with how they have stuck with us through the hardship of this season, understanding that there have been massive financial cuts in Welsh rugby.

“They have stuck with us in a season where they probably couldn’t have, they drive us on and we need to give something back to them.”

South Wales Argus: IMPRESSIVE: Aaron Wainwright capped a superb display with the Dragons' second tryIMPRESSIVE: Aaron Wainwright capped a superb display with the Dragons' second try (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The Dragons bossed the first half with 72 per cent possession and 77 per cent territory but failed the make their pressure count and led just 11-10 as they headed to their changing room.

They were held up over the line, had drives stopped, hammered away in the 22 and had one controversial call when Steff Hughes was deemed to have got up when tackled.

Live, it looked the correct call by referee Chris Busby but footage suggests it was tight. The official had whistled before the centre dotted down, so there couldn’t be TMO intervention.

The Dragons correctly kept the scoreboard ticking with penalties but paid the price for one lapse with a dropped bomb by Will Reed followed by a Warrick Gelant line break and neat kick for Angelo Davids to score.

The Stormers were clinical while Flanagan’s men left points out there in a first half in which they went toe-to-toe with a URC heavyweight.

There was plenty to be encouraged about with Blacker having arguably his best performance of an underwhelming season since heading east from the Scarlets, prop Rhodri Jones was the pick of a fine display by the tight five (with the lack of a replacement lock costly), Wales star Aaron Wainwright was just Aaron Wainwright and Harri Keddie was uncompromising and tough.

Now they need to find the way of getting more rewards for their good work.