WE left Principality Stadium last Saturday disappointed to have lost to the Scarlets but proud at a performance that might have shut up a few critics.
We never like to celebrate a defeat but I think that we did ourselves justice at Judgement Day after being completely written off before the game.
There was an article rating each player that had us considerably down on the Scarlets while some ‘pundits’ on social media were saying that they’d put at least 40 points on us.
The Scarlets are a quality side chasing the Guinness PRO12 play-offs and are filled with international players, so we knew what we were up against but were confident in ourselves.
We outplayed them for over an hour and were the better team in many areas before one or two decisions went against us and the game got away before we earned a consolation bonus point from the final play.
It was an encouraging performance and the key thing is that we back it up in the final two games of the season when we return to the PRO12 after this weekend.
There were lots of positives after the Scarlets game and the same was the case after we played Ulster in our last game at Rodney Parade.
We followed that up with a poor one at Zebre, so the biggest thing for us is getting consistency and maintaining the standards we set at Principality Stadium. Play like that regularly and we will change some of the perceptions about us.
Obviously there has been a lot of talk about Ollie Griffiths after his performance against the Scarlets and to win man of the match in a loss shows his influence.
As a back row unit we were pleased by how it went out there and as a pack we felt that we had the better of them at the collisions and contact area.
Ollie and Nic Cudd were superb but as a trio we feel that we owe a lot of thanks to our front five, who did really well in the loose to make our job so much easier.
The scrum didn’t go completely to plan – and it was a big effort for Brok Harris to play pretty much the whole game against Wales international Rob Evans after Lloyd Fairbrother’s early injury – but they were all excellent around the park and in the driving lineout.
The tight five do a lot of unseen work to help us do our job in the back row. That’s the sort of team synergy that we will need in the final fortnight.
We aim to finish strongly and, with Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues left to play, we are confident we can end on a high to give us momentum into next season.
As players, we can do no more other than pull on the shirt and give our best between now and the end of the season. We will reflect over the summer on how the situation off the field could affect rugby in Gwent in the future.
Which leads us to the matter at hand off the pitch and the key decision that has to be made on the 9th May. As captain and player for the Dragons I have a vested interest in a yes vote over the proposed WRU deal but I need to make it clear that the black and amber of Newport RFC and Rodney Parade itself mean as much to me as anyone on the terraces.
This is still a controversial issue but after knowing more and hearing what the alternatives are, my mind is clear and made up.
Fears over the loss of an asset is not what any business wants but the WRU want professional rugby in Gwent. However, the WRU has an obligation for the sake of rugby to have four teams in Guinness PRO12 and could have easily sit back, offer no assistance and then move a region up north as some people suggest.
Clearly, their support to be involved in Dragons rugby shows that this is not what they want and much needed investment to improve facilities will only be a good thing for both clubs (and county!) in the region.
Without the WRU deal being agreed, the main asset of Rodney Parade would be sold to recover debts and this is ‘cutting one’s nose off to spite their face’.
What does that leave us with? Only semi-pro rugby in Gwent? And semi-professional rugby being played somewhere else in Newport? This doesn’t sound attractive; not to players, not to fans.
One thing we can all agree on is that the benefactors who have put a lot of money into rugby at Rodney Parade for decades want to keep rugby there with a WRU takeover.
We have a lot to thank these gentlemen for over the years. The fact that they are willing to not recall all of the money owed to them if the vote is YES shows their committed support to the continuation of rugby in the capital of Gwent.
It seems to me that there aren’t any alternatives and for me, approaching 30 and in the latter stages of my career but with my best years ahead of me, this isn’t a decision about me as a player or even the Dragons as my club.
This is a decision about the fans, the amazing history we have in Gwent. The WRU are giving us an opportunity not just to save the professional game in Gwent but to grow it, and to ensure we give more to our fan base in the next 10, 20, 50 than we can without a yes vote.
I previously said that I hope common sense will prevail, and more importantly, this is a chance to come together to ensure that rugby in Gwent, as we want it, prevails.