ALMOST a year after starting the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 in Limerick, the Dragons completed their campaign with a defeat to the Scarlets in Newport.

Tries by Jared Rosser and Taine Basham meant that Dean Ryan’s men trailed just 19-15 at the break and it was tight approaching the hour.

However, the six-try Scarlets stretched away in the final quarter to mean Adam Warren’s smart finish down the right was just a consolation.


Here are the talking points from the clash...

Free Press Series: DECISION: Craig Evans was told to disallow the Dragons try, which was probably offsideDECISION: Craig Evans was told to disallow the Dragons try, which was probably offside


When Jared Rosser raced away he thought that his second try was going to cut the gap to four points with 20 minutes left.

Referee Craig Evans gave the try but then TMO Ian Davies got involved and it was chalked off because of an incident deep in the other 22.

Taine Basham made a tackle then retreated to the defensive line, slightly getting in scrum-half Kieran Hardy’s way.

His pass went loose, Rhodri Williams kicked on and Rosser snaffled. Hardy should have just passed the ball into Basham.

“Rhod, it’s come from the TMO, you’ve got a player in an offside position, which is impeding the pass,” said Evans to a groan from Williams. “So the try doesn’t stand and I am coming back for a penalty.”

“An absolute shocker,” said Dragons centre Jamie Roberts, who was working for Premier Sports. “How many times do we see this in a game of rugby?

“Basham is getting up off the floor and has actually made an effort to stay low, he sees the ball coming and stays down. Great decision.

“Did it affect the pass of the nine? No.”

The consensus was that it was a harsh decision but I believe had the footage rolled on then the end result would still have been three points to the Scarlets rather than seven to the Dragons.

Watching live I felt that Rosser was slightly in front of Williams when the ball was hacked on and that certainly looked the case on replay.

It didn’t get that far because they penalised Basham, leading to the try being chalked off and Dan Jones kicking a penalty.

Free Press Series: UNDER PRESSURE: The Dragons' scrum struggledUNDER PRESSURE: The Dragons' scrum struggled


Don’t let that flashpoint distract from the reason that the Scarlets won, and the reason they would have won even had Rosser been awarded a double.

One feared from the moment that the teams were announced at midday on Friday that the Dragons would get a tuning in the tight.

So it proved with the inexperienced prospects getting a taste of Test quality from Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Jake Ball plus Lewis Rawlins.

The Dragons’ energy was sapped by the Scarlets’ scrum and driving lineout, with the defence of the drive needing urgent improvement ahead of the Bristol quarter-final.

The introduction of Leon Brown shored things up a bit – they held their own five metres out despite Nick Tompkins packing down on the flank in the absence of Harri Keddie – but it was a tough evening.

Of the youngsters, loosehead Josh Reynolds continues to impress with his appetite for a carry and should prosper this season by working with Brok Harris, Aaron Jarvis and Greg Bateman, getting more game time under his belt.

Free Press Series: CLASSY: Nick Tompkins led the charge from 12CLASSY: Nick Tompkins led the charge from 12


We’ll only see him for a year but Nick Tompkins looks sure to make an impression.

He was 13 at the Liberty Stadium, 12 at Rodney Parade and he is a classy operator – he is a lovely player with ball in hand but he also makes sound decisions.

Tompkins is sure to be away on Test duty for much of the season but will be hugely influential in festive derbies and big European games.

From there it’s just a matter of selection. Outside a heavy-hitter in Jack Dixon/Jamie Roberts? Inside the reliable and classy Adam Warren? Helping playmaker Aneurin Owen, whose distribution could get him on the outside?

Nice choices and if Tompkins stays fit then the Dragons’ back line will be dramatically improved.

Free Press Series: INFLUENTIAL: Lewis RawlinsINFLUENTIAL: Lewis Rawlins


Lewis Rawlins made an impression in his first season at Cross Keys after making the move from hometown club Caerphilly in 2011.

The Pandy Park side encouraged the Dragons to have a look at the young lock/flanker but Gareth Jenkins was too quick.

Rawlins earned a Scarlets academy contract, combining his learning in Llanelli with his studies at Swansea University.

Now 30, he sums up why the west Walians are so good – the lock has shone against the Ospreys and Dragons but will probably miss out on the XV in Toulon.

Rawlins was the only member of the tight five who hasn’t played for Wales yet he was just as influential in the demolition job up front.

Physical and accurate, the former Keys man has reaped the rewards of a wise choice in heading for Llanelli in 2012.

Free Press Series: BACK: Dragons hooker Elliot DeeBACK: Dragons hooker Elliot Dee


The derbies are done and dusted, leaving the Dragons trying to ensure their season won’t end at Ashton Gate.

They head to Bristol as underdogs but can field a side capable of upsetting the odds against the Premiership title chasers to earn a shot at Bordeaux-Begles or Edinburgh.

Ryan mixed it up against Welsh rivals and now enjoys a week off before returning to Ystrad Mynach to mull over his selection for the Bears.

The management will hammer it home to their squad they still have time to influence the line-up.

My team (although it changes daily): Jonah Holmes; Jared Rosser, Nick Tompkins, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt; Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Matthew Screech, Joe Maksymiw, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty. Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Josh Reynolds, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Ben Fry, Luke Baldwin, Arwel Robson, Adam Warren.

That’d be harsh on Ellis Shipp and it would be a big decision to leave out proven big game player Jamie Roberts, while the Luke Baldwin/Tavis Knoyle call is a coin toss.

It’s also influenced by the absence so far of Aaron Jarvis – Lloyd Fairbrother has been travelling reserve twice, yet strangely hasn’t been included in the 23s – and Josh Lewis.

Good enough to win in Bristol? If a few things go their way, yes.