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    richardmpowell wrote:
    This is my stand on what the problems are with the team and why they often perform so poorly on match days. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with the coaches; they all have obvious abilities and proven track records. Secondly, the squad is too small and the players, with a few notable exceptions, are of limited ability and of limited experience, with youthfulness playing too much of a part; most are not of an adequate standard for the RaboDirect Pro 12 or the AVIVA Premiership, but are more than adequate for the Principality Premiership and for most of the teams in the English Championship; in short, they tend to ‘fall between two stools’ in terms of their abilities. Thirdly, and as many readers continually point out, the match-day front fives are invariably outgunned in the scrum and often in the lineouts, and also outplayed in the lose, all of which means that the backs are inevitably starved of useful ball. Fourthly, the revenue stream is inadequate to fund the standard of players, and particularly oversees and other home-country players, that any RaboDirect Pro 12 and AVIVA Premiership side is going to need to be successful; i.e. reliance on home-grown local talent to the current extent is unrealistic. So, leading on from my last point, there is a chicken and egg situation in that if we had more spectators we would have more gate receipts, probably more and greater sponsorship, and more money from the franchisees’ fees as they themselves would take more money. The local economic situation over the course of the last twenty or more years has also been a major contributory factor that has affected our regions far more than most of the clubs in the AVIVA Premiership, and gate receipts have been affected as a result. So how do we square this vicious circle of inadequate funds, too many players of limited ability, poor results and poor gates? And, indeed, is this vicious cycle soluble? All positive suggestions, and in your usual vociferous ways of course, will be gratefully received….
    Recon your pretty close there Richard. Anyone who saw scrum V Sunday would have seen JD and Kingsley expressing frustration with the gap in funding between the Welsh clubs and the rest of the UK. The regions recognise they need to get more cash in to compete. It's the cause of the current row with the RRW and WRU. The Dragons are doing what they can with what they have. As are the other 3. Difficult times for sure. As far as positive suggestions for going forward, the answer is what ever brings in the most cash. It really is that simple."
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Ulster 38 Dragons 8

First published in Sport

IT was always going to be a tough task doing the double over Ulster at Ravenhill, and so it proved as the Dragons went down to a five-try battering.

It was all over by half time with the hosts already having secured a bonus point, and at that stage humiliation looked on the cards for the Gwent region.

But to their credit they fronted up in the second half which saw just a try apiece, Ross Wardle powering over for the visitors.

Stoic defence, led by Pat Leach, kept the hosts at bay but this was a night for saving blushes rather than targeting points.

The Dragons went behind after just two minutes when Ashley Smith was penalised at a breakdown and Ulster points machine Ruan Pienaar slotted over the kick.

Ulster proceeded to go through the phases but the Dragons’ defence held firm, outside half Steffan Jones eventually relieving the pressure with a kick deep into the home side’s half.

After a scrappy period the Dragons had their first chance when Jevon Groves found himself in space only for scrum half Richie Rees to knock on his offload.

The outlook started to look bleaker for the visitors when Ulster moved the ball into space and scrum half Pienaar was put clear to sprint and dive over. He added the extras to make in 10-0 on 16 minutes.

The Dragons showed some intent after the restart going through the phases themselves, Jones at No10 looking a threat. But a knock on allowed the home side to re-group.

On 23 minutes the writing was on the wall when the returning Tommy Bowe was put clear following quick lineout ball and showed his pace to go over. Outside half Paddy Jackson added the extras from wide out to make it 17-0.

Three minutes later Bowe went over again after a great offload from Pienaar. Jackson making it 24-0.

With echoes of the Dragons’ trip to Leinster a few weeks ago, they conceded a penalty try on 32 minutes when their scrum came under intense pressure. Just prior to the try loosehead Owen Evans was sin-binned, replaced by Nathan Williams with Jevon Groves making way.

It was 31-0 now and the hosts were cruising.

The Dragons weren’t giving in, however, and after a cheeky chip over the Ulster defence by Jones, Leach gathered to put the hosts under pressure. A deliberate knock on by Pienaar allowed Dragons full back Rhys Jones to kick their first points. It was 31-3 at the break.

The start of the second half saw the hosts back in top gear as they cut through the Dragons’ defence only for full back Jones to put in a try-saving tackle.

The Dragons’ defence was really starting to creak now and Ulster openside Sean Doyle went over wide out after a score under the posts was just denied. Jackson added the extras to make it 38-3.

It was a watershed moment. The Dragons had to front up or get slaughtered. They did the former.

They wasted a try-scoring chance when No10 Jones threw a wild pass but their renewed efforts were to be rewarded on 62 minutes.

Replacement prop Duncan Bell showed great hands to put Wardle into space and he powered over in the corner. Jones just missed the conversion to make it 38-8.

The game had really broken up now and was scrappy in the extreme. But it seemed to suit the Dragons more than the hosts, who certainly weren’t turning the screw as one might have expected.

The defiant visitors kept them out for the rest of the game but it was too little too late and a miserable night after last week’s fine victory over Glasgow.

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