12:01pm Wednesday 16th October 2013
ACADEMY coach Byron Hayward is eyeing more development clashes for Newport Gwent Dragons after a successful workout against Oxford University, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Dragons, with a mix of players from the fringes of their seniors and young guns, triumphed 20-18 at Iffley Road on Tuesday night.
They led 20-6 at the break thanks to tries by back row forward James Benjamin, lock Joe Davies and centre Lewis Robling plus five points from the boot of fly-half Steffan Jones.
But the Dragons, captained by former Wales lock Adam Jones, had to stand firm at the death after the students mounted a second-half comeback, much to the delight of their coach.
"Experiences like this are invaluable for the lads in the academy," said Hayward, who is also in charge of Wales Under-20s.
"They rub shoulders with senior pros that show them the size of the gap from the Premiership to regional rugby and the intensity of training sessions as well as the matches.
"As a first time together as a team after just one session together it was a very pleasing team performance and a really useful workout."
Hayward would like to slot in another couple of games before the Under-20s Six Nations but nothing has been sorted yet.
And Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones is also keen to give the region's young guns a glimpse of the senior set-up.
"The pathway for our academy players has to improve and get stronger," he said. "It's okay coaching and teaching them but they need to be alongside RaboDirect Pro12 players to understand how to think, how to play and how to behave.
"It's a really positive exercise and we need more of these fixtures, there are a lot of academy boys here and it gets everyone pushing together."
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