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Andrew Coombs: Embarrassing defeat puts the heat on Dragons ahead of Zebre trip

First published in Sport

CAPTAIN Andrew Coombs has demanded a reaction from Newport Gwent Dragons as they attempt to restore some pride against Zebre in the RaboDirect Pro12.

The Rodney Parade region travel to Parma this weekend on the back of a humiliating 24-8 defeat to Connacht on their own turf.

They now sit ninth in the table after being dismantled up front by the Irish province up, who bagged a bonus point thanks to three driving lineouts and a strong scrum.

Not only does sixth spot – set to be the last qualification berth for the new premier European tournament – look distant but they are in danger of slipping back towards the 11th spot that they occupied in a disastrous 2012/13 campaign.

The manner of the defeat to Connacht led to plenty of criticism and a backhanded compliment from pundit Gwyn Jones on BBC's Scrum V.

"I'm not overly critical about the Dragons because they are an average bunch of players who have on the whole overachieved this season," said the former Cardiff and Wales flanker.

"This was one of the few occasions when they underachieved. It was no lack of effort it is just that they players are not good enough on the whole."

Wales lock Coombs pulled no punches when assessing the Dragons' display against Connacht but believes it's in their own hands to show that they do have quality in their ranks.

And he expects a week of honest toil and total concentration on the training paddock as they bid to strike back.

"Sunday was embarrassing," said Coombs. "First half we weren't good enough, second half we weren't good enough.

"We were way off the mark and need to get much better. The scrum was terrible in the first half and the driving lineout defence was non-existent.

"The boys were pretty honest with each other after the game and everyone put their hands up to their mistakes but it's about a reaction now, not just admitting where you went wrong.

"It all starts on Tuesday morning. We have to regather our thoughts, train well and go from there. It's still tight (in the league) and we have to be positive."

The Dragons will face a swift turnaround from Saturday's clash with Zebre as the rearranged home encounter with Edinburgh taking place five days later.

However, the Scots face an even sterner challenge – they also play in Italy on Saturday against Treviso and will barely have the chance to unpack their suitcases before travelling down to Wales.

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