More of the same for the run-in, demands Dragons coach Darren Edwards
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons saved face in the second half against Leinster, head coach Darren Edwards has called on his young charges to show the same resilience in a challenging RaboDirect Pro12 run-in.
The Rodney Parade region, who are one from bottom of the table, are not in action for two weeks and they will need to rest up for what is a punishing final furlong.
Four of the Dragons' five remaining fixtures are against sides that are in with a chance of making the Pro12 play-offs and, with home advantage swapped for the Millennium Stadium against the Scarlets, just one of them is at Rodney Parade.
It has been a testing season and it looked grim against Leinster last week when the Irish province raced into a 19-3 lead in the first quarter.
But unlike the 60-3 home drubbing to Glasgow when they imploded, the Dragons rallied and went toe-to-toe with the European champions, winning the second half 10-7.
That same determination and defensive tenacity is a bare minimum if they are to finish a disappointing campaign on a high.
“Leinster went off like rockets, played some brilliant rugby and put us on the back foot,” said Edwards, whose starting XV had an average age of 22.6.
“Our guys are on a sharp learning curve and to be fair they didn't capitulate and went right back at them.
“As a coach you hope that the boys have the pride to put things back together when things go wrong and it's hard, because it feels like tidal waves are coming at you.
“Leinster showed that they are a quality side and you are going to get those days – there are times when it's tough but you have to stick in there.
“You have to regroup; it's a team sport and we had to collectively get it right. That's what they did so credit to them, I'm really pleased for them.
“If you dig in then you give yourself a chance and they did that – we went in just 19-9 down and then came out firing in the second half. It was a great response.”
The disastrous start – the fourth game in a row they have been forced to play catch-up – proved to be the Dragons' undoing but Edwards believes it provided more evidence of one youngster's star quality.
In-form Wales Under-20s number eight Ieuan Jones stood firm in another top performance while deputising for Six Nations star Toby Faletau.
“In that first quarter there was one young man leading the charge,” said Edwards.
“That says a lot for Ieuan's character and he was superb again against a very strong side.
“I thought that the whole back row was outstanding and got over the ball a lot, while Lewis Evans also led the team superbly.
“In the second half every player was brave, committed, gave everything and really wanted to play hard for the Dragons.
“They deserved their bonus point for outstanding defence and still having the energy after all that to go right down the other end to score a try.”