Dragons up for the fight in the tight at Bath
8:01am Saturday 19th October 2013 in Sport
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons must stand firm against the powerhouse Bath pack if they are to record their first ever away victory against English opposition in European competition this afternoon, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Dragons head to the Rec in the Amlin Challenge Cup (kick-off 3pm) looking to improve an awful record against rivals from across the border.
They have taken on Aviva Premiership sides 20 times since their inception and won just once – against Bristol at Rodney Parade in January, 2007.
The region has been beaten home and away by Leicester (2003/4), Newcastle (2004/5), Sale (2005/6), London Irish (2007/8), Bath (2008/9), Gloucester (2009/10), Wasps (2010/11 and 2012/13) and Exeter (2011/12) while they lost to Bristol at the Memorial Ground in 2006.
If they are to buck that trend in today's crunch Pool Two encounter then they will need to produce their best performance of the season in the set piece.
Bath put the squeeze on up front when the sides met at Rodney Parade in pre-season only for the Dragons to defend for their lives and steal a 22-20 win.
It will come as no surprise when the hosts attempt to heave their way to glory in the West Country this afternoon.
"Bath have got a hell of a lot of experience in their front five and have that English mentality of focusing on the tight work," said loosehead prop Owen Evans.
"But we are not worried about that and rather than thinking about who they have got in their side we just need to concentrate on performing as a unit ourselves.
"We are making improvements every week and everyone is learning how to deal with this season's new calls at the scrum.
"Maybe we were a bit slower to get to grips with them but we are definitely improving as a pack and getting used to each other."
Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones has backed his uncapped trio of Owen Evans, Hugh Gustafson and Dan Way (average age 25) to relish the front row battle against Samoa loosehead Anthony Perenise, hooker Ross Batty and England tighthead David Wilson (average age 29), with Wales prop Paul James lurking on the bench for Bath.
"Our front row forwards have advanced their game this season and I keep on forgetting how young these boys are, they've just about got hairs on their arms," said Jones.
"They have got lots of lessons ahead of them and they don't get much bigger than this. Bath's tight game is impressive and they have quality players in all positions but we are confident that we can go there and put in a big performance."
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