THE Dragons were beaten 22-13 by the Scarlets in the final derby of the festive period. Here are the talking points from the Guinness PRO14 encounter in Llanelli…

Strong derby block

The Dragons’ woeful record against Welsh rivals has been well documented, so this batch of three fixtures was their best effort for years.

They took great spirit from the game at Cardiff Blues, when denied a draw at the death, and that helped them end the four-year derby hoodoo against the Ospreys in a thriller at Rodney Parade.

This game was the only one that they took nothing from and they could have few complaints about that.

However, it was far from a derby drubbing and the way that the tired-looking Dragons battled to limit the damage was encouraging.

Granted, the Scarlets are not in the best of shape at the moment but they still boasted quality in their ranks so to still be in the contest approaching the hour was a solid effort.

Scrum woes

“What’s it like to be covering the favourites?!”, the BBC’s Phil Steele asked me on arrival at Parc y Scarlets.

There were plenty tipping the Dragons to triumph in Llanelli but I wasn’t one of them after knowing they were a little banged up and fearing the worst at the set piece. Sadly I was right.

Aaron Jarvis had been a doubt before the game but things were already looking ominous before the former Wales prop limped off.

The Scarlets trio of Rob Evans, Ryan Elias and Samson Lee would cause most sides in Europe trouble, while their back-ups Wyn Jones, Marc Jones and Werner Kruger aren’t too shabby.

The results were predictable with tighthead Dan Suter given a repeat of the torrid time he suffered on his last start at Judgement Day. He wouldn’t return after a yellow card.

The lack of a platform – Espn’s stats have it 72 per cent possession to the Scarlets and 76 per cent territory – denied the Dragons the chance to throw a few punches down the other end of the field.

With the services of Brok Harris, Leon Brown, Ryan Bevington, Jarvis and Lloyd Fairbrother, maybe they would have stood a chance of a second win in Llanelli.

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Defensive strides

The scoreboard slightly flattered the Dragons thanks to their excellent try at the death but their defensive effort has to be lauded.

Before they headed to the capital on December 21, all of their hosts in PRO14 away games had won with bonus points.

They limited Cardiff Blues to a Dan Fish try and the Scarlets crossed twice. In between those away fixtures the Ospreys managed just one in Newport through Justin Tipuric.

The Scarlets were not at their slickest last night but the Dragons’ heart was encouraging, especially given their set piece struggles.

They didn’t quite have the speed off the line after a tough month but their scrambling was good and they put their bodies on the line.

Ring the changes

If it’s a freezing night on Friday then one imagines plenty will forego a trip to Rodney Parade to watch the Challenge Cup clash with Timisoara Saracens.

In fact, plenty of Dragons players deserve to stay at home with their feet up after the last four games.

Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Elliot Dee, Brandon Nansen, Matthew Screech, Harrison Keddie all deserve rests after bruising derby battles up front.

It’s a dead rubber so if it's not time for Jacob Botica to make a debut then when is? Gavin Henson should make his return and a raft of fringe players can come in.

The Dragons can still name a team that will get a bonus point win and all of those taking the field will have the carrot of earning more first team opportunities.

How about Jordan Williams, Zane Kirchner, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Deon Smith, Gavin Henson, Tavis Knoyle, Gerard Ellis, Rhys Lawrence, Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, Lewis Evans (captain), Huw Taylor, Nic Cudd, James Benjamin?