Newport Gwent Dragons are the visitors to CAP on Boxing Day for a festive showdown of an East Wales derby. As a result, Brad Hayward of the Dragons Official Supporter’s Club has answered a few questions this week’s Opposition View. An excellent read on the current form and status of the Rodney Parade side, vastly different to how some in the Welsh media are writing currently.
If you are a fan of NGD then you can check them out here http://www.dragonssupportersclub.com/ and here @DragonsOfficialSC, or even if you’re not a fan, I guess….
How would you sum up your 2015/16 season overall?
W 4 L 18 PF 393 PA 492 TF 33 TA 57 TBP 0 LBP 10
Newport Gwent Dragons finished 10th in the Pro12
So near, but so far. 15/16 was the season of the losing bonus point, where during the Pro12 season we narrowly lost a total of 10 times. Many of the games were touch and go right to the end and we just seemed to lack the confidence and composure to see it home. Infuriating as that was for players, coaches and supporters alike, it did demonstrate that we were not as far behind the pack as some of the media would convince you.
Are you pleased with your new signings?
Thomas Davies, Sam Hobbs, Craig Mitchell, Tavis Knoyle (all Cardiff), Nick MacLeod (Sale), Sam Beard (Edinburgh), Patrick Howard (Northmapton), Darran Harris (Rotherham), Ashley Sweet (Ebbw Vale)
Very happy. It’s no secret that the Dragons were operating under budgetary constraints this summer whilst awaiting new investors, and the majority of signings that Kingsley and the team made in the summer have really added something to our squad. Of note are the signings of Sam Beard in the centre, who is a real class act, and Sam Hobbs at loosehead, who has offered some real power up front, and has become a bit of a try machine for us (A shock for Cardiff fans everywhere, Ed.). Paddy Howard on the wing has also settled in very well, and offers us a physical presence in the backline.
Where would you say your team’s strengths and weakness lie?
Our Scrum this season has been very solid, with Ceri Jones coming in and doing a great job with the pack. Also, our work at the breakdown this season has been exceptional, with players like Ollie Griffiths, Nic Cudd, Lewis Evans, Rynard Landman & Nick Crosswell all excelling in the close quarters.
Where we have looked very threatening this season however has been our outside backs. In the wide channels we have a lot of class, with the likes of Sam Beard, Tyler Morgan, Adam Warren, Hal Amos & Ashton Hewitt a huge threat to any team.
In terms of weaknesses, they have generally manifested away from Rodney Parade, where the team have looked a little fragile in terms of confidence, and have not always demonstrated the same physicality and tempo that is generally shown at home. When finding themselves on the back foot away from home, there can become a tendency to kick the ball away after long periods defending, giving the opposition the impetus once more.
How do you rate your coach?
Kingsley Jones has been in sole charge since the departure of Lyn Jones in April
Personally feel that Kingsley is doing a very good job. The team have developed a far more attractive style of play this season, and are looking far more threatening with ball in hand. Off the field he has recruited soundly despite budget limitations, and a large number of important players (Ed Jackson, Rynard Landman & Brok Harris) renewing their contracts despite much more generous offers elsewhere, demonstrates the confidence the players have in Kingsley, and the direction the Region are taking. A personable and charismatic presence, with a diverse CV, Kingsley has a lot to offer Welsh Rugby, and seems to be developing a number of high potential young talent very well indeed.
Who do you see as your star player?
A real tough question, not due to a lack of talent at the Dragons, far from it, but more due to a sizeable number of the team being young Welsh players that are rated incredibly highly based on future potential. The likes of Elliott Dee, Leon Brown, Ollie Griffiths, Harri Keddie, Angus O’Brien, Jack Dixon, Tyler Morgan and Ashton Hewitt, to name just a few, are all players of undoubted international potential, and are all getting regular game time at the Region.
With such a wealth of young talent, the more senior players play a vital role, and the likes of Brok Harris, Rynard Landman, Nick Crosswell, Ed Jackson, Sam Beard and skipper Lewis Evans have stood up this season and really performed. However to answer to the question it would have to be Hallam Amos, who started this season on fire, and is a true Rolls-Royce of a rugby player.
How has this season gone so far?
Newport Gwent Dragons are currently 9th in the Pro12, with 3 wins and 7 losses
A big step in the right direction. A team containing a high percentage of young Welsh talent, who are trying to play expansive high tempo rugby, a definite improvement from recent seasons. Their form at Rodney Parade this season has been very good, where the team have gone from strength to strength, winning 5 on the bounce in recent weeks, and making RP a very difficult place for teams to visit.
This momentum has often been halted however by the team’s form on the road, which not only impacts the slowly building confidence (team and supporters alike), but gives the Region’s detractors further ammunition for the often overly harsh criticism that comes our way, with little consideration of the wider context.
What is the aim for this season?
Continue to nurture the young Welsh talent at our disposal, and develop our style of play in order to offer the opportunity for our young and exciting backline to excel. Measurable progress would be welcomed by climbing the Pro12 table this season, with our sights set on finishing higher than just the two Italian teams, and demonstrating a tangible improvement more than just the moral positives we can take from the make up and changing style of our team.
Off the field we continue to remain optimistic that a future ownership structure will soon be in place to stabilize the current set up, and provide the opportunity for future growth and investment in the Region.
Prediction for our game?
A Boxing Day Derby victory would really add impetus to the building confidence and optimism at the Dragons, however there’s no doubt it will be tough fixture. Our current away form would suggest this will be a tall order, but the Blues defence can be exploited, and we can possibly battle to have the upper hand in the scrum, breakdown, and possibly in wide channels if we can use Tyler Morgan and Ashton Hewitt’s speed and flair.
The strength of the Blues midfield, and ball carrying of Nick Williams will need to be nullified for us to get a result in this fixture however. Hoping for a high scoring festive fixture, with the Dragons coming home thanks to a late Ashton Hewitt try in the North West corner of the Stadium.. 🙂 (I admire the wishful thinking, Ed.)
Thanks again to Brad and Merry Christmas to our Newport Gwent Dragons counterparts, see you Monday! Come on Cardiff!!!