Ghosts of results past a spur for the Dragons
DRAGONS v GLASGOW (Tonight, KO 7.05)
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons will be trying to deal with the ghosts of Glasgow past at Rodney Parade this evening.
The Warriors head to Newport with Duncan Weir at number 10 – the man who booted a record eight penalties to earn a 24-19 success at Firhill in October, 2011.
Then there is Scott Wight among the replacements – the man who exploited a Lewis Evans howler to earn a draw in Wales two months later.
And next to him on the bench is the little magician Niko Matawalu – the scrum-half who led them a merry dance on a cold Glasgow night in November.
It’s fair to say that when the lactic acid is building up, the lively Fijian trotting onto the field will not be a welcome sight.
Henry Pyrgos is a player with some pedigree, after all, he has been released from Scotland Six Nations duty to feature this evening.
Yet box office Matawalu, who was man of the match in the Warriors’ win against Zebre on Sunday, being on the bench will be of some relief to the Dragons.
“He is a bit individual and doesn’t play by a script – you can’t analyse the way that he plays because it looks like he makes it up as he goes along,” said defence coach Rob Appleyard.
“However, his pace and his power, vision and skills makes him a real threat. I thought that we might have had a chance to isolate him when we went up there because he runs off on his own... as it was he tore us to shreds.
“Hopefully we’ve learnt our lesson and we will trust in our defensive system. We need to be solid in our line and work together.”
The Dragons chances of upsetting the second-placed Warriors are helped by the visitors’ international calls.
They are without the likes of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Ruaridh Jackson and Roddy Grant.
Yet their squad includes Pyrgos, Pat MacArthur, Weir and Moray Low, who were all on Scotland’s bench against Italy last weekend while 12 of their 23 were involved in November’s 37-6 drubbing of the Dragons at Scotstoun.
“Glasgow have a very good second tier and there is no chance of them coming here with a soft side,” said Appleyard.
“Their squad includes some very strong characters – I’m thinking of people like Josh Strauss (their South African number eight) – and they want to get a home semi-final, not just make the playoffs.”
The Dragons head into the game on the back of three victories and the manner of those successes has delighted Appleyard.
They beat the Ospreys and London Welsh in the LV= Cup after getting their noses in front in the last quarter while they had to dig deep against Treviso last Friday.
The Italian led 14-0 before the Dragons scored 23 unanswered points.
“The boys have started sprightly in previous games but haven’t had the confidence to go on to win,” said Appleyard.
“In recent weeks they have dug in, had the mindset to go the 80 minutes and get the victory.
“That shows progress and it was pleasing against Treviso that the squad pushed on towards the end and didn’t try and close the game out too early.”
The players have been rewarded for that performance with just one change made to the starting line-up, Owen Evans replacing Phil Price at loosehead prop.