Dragons Are Nearly Men Again

Dai Flanagan has told his Dragons players they need to “stop being an almost team.”

The Rodney Parade coach claimed they almost scored a try and almost denied one for Cardiff, which might have “almost” given them their first derby victory over their biggest rivals for nine years.

Instead, Cardiff coach Matt Sherratt celebrated as his team won a 17th successive derby clash against the desperate Dragons.

The BKT United Rugby Championship clash between the rivals went the way of all the others since 2004 with a 16-9 win for Cardiff at Rodney Parade.

Flanagan said: “We came in with a plan, but we lost three players really early so I’m really proud of the way the players adapted and we nearly found a way.

“The bounce of the ball went one way for their try and against us for a possible score, but we need to stop being an almost team.

“We seem to put pressure on ourselves against Cardiff and listen to the negativity of this run. We need to turn up full of optimism, but the mindset is hard to shift.”

It was a second successive home defeat for the Dragons and Cardiff’s opening win of the campaign.

Returning Wales World Cup centre Mason Grady scored the only try of a dour contest.

The rest of the points came from the respective boots of home outside half Angus O’Brien, with three penalties, and opposite number Tinus de Beet, who converted the Grady try and added three penalties himself.

Sherratt said: “It was about getting the job done. It certainly wasn’t a classic, but derbies rarely are in terms of attack and attacking flair. However, we ground it out.

“We kicked well given the strong wind and the Wales boys coming back made a real impact.”

There was also a first URC win of the season for the Ospreys who bounced back from defeat at Connacht to earn a bonus point victory at home to Zebre.

It was too close for comfort, though, as the Italians outscored the Ospreys by five tries to four, but lost out in the goalkicking stakes to go down, 34-31.

Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric admitted: “It was the same as last week, we are not starting well at the minute but the boys stuck in.

“The whole point of the game was trying to run them around a bit. It did not work at the start but it was nice to come away with five points.”

But while the Ospreys and Cardiff enjoyed wins in Wales, there was a second heavy defeat for the Scarlets in South Africa.

They lost 52-7 against the Stormers in Stellenbosch, conceding eight tries to go along with the nine they had leaked in defeat to the Bulls the week before.

The South African sides are all without their World Cup-winning Springboks, while the Scarlets don’t have their Wales players, either.

But the strength and depth of rugby in South Africa is proving more resilient at present and Scarlets coach Dwayne Peel said: “We were out-muscled, it was as simple as that.

“We were in the game for the first 15 to 20 minutes but errors cost us and we were punished through their power. Physically we just weren’t at the races and we just couldn’t hold on.

“We’ve had two heavy losses. This is the first time a lot of these players have been to South Africa and we have to take the learnings, rather than any positives.”

Peel was angered after his team lost centre Joe Roberts following a high tackle by Ben Loader after six minutes.

TMO officials could not give a verdict as no TV replays were made available to them.

Peel added: “It was very strange that they couldn’t look at it and we will be questioning that.”

The Scarlets were not the only team in red to suffer at the weekend.

Ioan Cunningam admitted Wales Women are “hurting” after a record 70-7 defeat to New Zealand which former international Alecs Donovan said will have “embarrassed” the players.

Cunningham’s team have won plenty of plaudits for their progress over the past couple of seasons, yet they are bottom of their group in the new WXV1 tournament Down Under with one game left to play, against Australia.

They were over-run by a New Zealand team who were on a different level as the Black Ferns ran in 12 tries, with just one in reply from Abbie Fleming.

Cunningham admitted: “It was a tough loss. We are hurting quite badly but it is a steep learning curve and we are here to develop and hopefully close that gap.”