THE Dragons enjoyed a 25-16 win against Worcester in the European Challenge Cup. Here are the talking points from the clash at Rodney Parade…


Last season’s European Challenge Cup campaign was over from the moment that the Dragons were drawn with eventual winners Clermont Auvergne and Northampton.

This time the region head into January with their knockout destiny in their own hands.

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The Dragons will be guaranteed runners-up spot in Pool One as long as they finish with a five-point haul against Enisei-STM in the group finale.

That is because they have a better head-to-head record with Worcester courtesy of late bonus-point swings at both Sixways and Rodney Parade.

The Warriors claimed five points on home soil but conceded a late breakaway try to let the Dragons leave with a consolation.

The Dragons weren’t so charitable and Sam Davies took away Worcester’s bonus with a late penalty last night.

That means both teams claimed five match points from the double-header, and the Dragons won the aggregate battle 53-50.

Worcester can’t overhaul them as long as the Russians are dealt with ruthlessly in Newport.

However, the region will need other results to go their way to claim one of the three best runners-up spots (cross your fingers for Cardiff Blues losing in Pau and Leicester), so it’s much easier to just win the group.

Winning in Castres is going to be very, very hard but the Dragons have upset the odds at Stade Francais and Pau in recent years.

Leaving the Stade Pierre Fabre with anything would be welcome in the bid to at least boost the total in the tussle for the runners-up spot, plus Castres will still have to win at Sixways to claim first place.

Free Press Series: SUPERB: Sam Davies pulled the stringsSUPERB: Sam Davies pulled the strings


Sam Davies rightly took the plaudits after his seven kicks from seven helped take the spoils.

The fly-half has been superb since heading east from the Ospreys, providing the accuracy from the tee, game management and general clout that the Dragons have needed for a long time from their 10.

He’s also resumed the partnership with his old Wales Under-20s mucker Rhodri Williams, who has enjoyed a strong first half to the season.

The pair controlled the game nicely against the Warriors, especially in the final quarter.

Williams kicked excellently and was also a calm presence in the back field when claiming high balls.

If the pair are on song in the derbies then the Dragons have a real shot at claiming a scalp or two.

Free Press Series: WELCOME RETURN: Cory HillWELCOME RETURN: Cory Hill


One imagines that Cory Hill will have to ease himself down his stairs on his backside this morning. After 10 months on the sidelines the Wales forward will be aching from a mightily impressive 80-minute effort.

The torrential rain meant it wasn’t the fastest of games and there was plenty of kicking, which led to Hill staying on rather than heading to the bench in the second half.

The Wales lock, who started at blindside for a fifth Dragons game on the spin, showed the qualities that made him a Warren Gatland favourite.

Hill was calm in a tense encounter and helped the region make the right set-piece calls in the crucial last quarter, when the scrum was on top and the lineout drive built up a head of steam.

He will be a massive figure in the festive derbies, and given the Dragons’ back row riches that really should be as a lock rather than blindside.


Granted, it was an evening for putting boot to ball rather than getting it through the hands but the Dragons produced a strong defensive performance.

I can't recall many clean line breaks, although the official Challenge Cup website stats state there were two, and Worcester's sole try came when it was 14 versus 13, with Duncan Weir producing a peach of a kick assist.

The Dragons were also organised in defence at Sixways despite being a man down for an hour after Taine Basham's red.

They have good line speed and good attitude but more importantly all know what they are doing.

That is credit to Simon Cross, who was brought in by Dean Ryan this summer and continues to have a part-time role, heading to Ystrad Mynach when he can fit it in with his job at Royal Grammar School Worcester.

One day a week is not ideal but the former Edinburgh captain is clearly getting his message and methods across.

The Dragons will be tested more by the Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys but can take heart from good showings against the Warriors after their nightmare versus Zebre, when they were completely outmuscled.

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Dragons boss Dean Ryan would love a few more selection headaches for the first of three derbies against the Scarlets next weekend.

Injuries mean that his back three is pretty much nailed-on – Will Talbot-Davies, Owen Jenkins and Ashton Hewitt – while Rhodri Williams and Sam Davies will be the half-backs.

One imagines it will be Adam Warren and either Jack Dixon or Tyler Morgan in midfield (with Dixon in pole position).

Aaron Wainwright and Ollie Griffiths are certs in the back row and then it’s either stick with Cory Hill or shove him forward to make space for Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty (too soon for a start?) or Harri Keddie.

Brok Harris and Leon Brown start but does Aaron Jarvis stick as tighthead cover, where he has done well against Worcester, or shift across to loosehead in place of promising but raw Josh Reynolds with Lloyd Fairbrother coming in?

Arguably the toughest call comes at hooker where current Wales hooker Elliot Dee and former Wales hooker Richard Hibbard both have strong claims to start.

Whoever gets the nod, the other will have a big role to play off the bench and the same goes for number 17 to 23.

Ryan only used three subs against Worcester (lock Max Williams, scrum-half Luke Baldwin, fly-half Jacob Botica and centre Morgan were not needed) but the pace and intensity is likely to be much higher in the derby clashes.