There has been a fair bit of rivalry between the Dragons and Glasgow over the past few years, largely because the two teams often ended up in the same European pool. The Dragons were the only team to beat us home and away in the league last season so, in order to continue our winning momentum, we will have to raise our level of performance once again this weekend.
The Dragons will pose a different test for us in terms of how they defend as they utilise the “blitz” defence, in which line speed is paramount. It is an aggressive approach that sees defenders initially lined up outside their opposite numbers. Then as they advance they look to shut off any passing moves by coming back towards the ball. The Dragons also like to vary the numbers they put in their defensive line and they can add a scrum-half or a blind-side winger inside their stand-off and that can make things very congested and puts space at a premium.
As such, you have to be very smart in how you manipulate space in terms of how to get around their defensive line, through it or behind it.
A blitz defence tends to succeed if the attack isn’t committed to their decisions or if they handle the ball poorly. We will be focused on being accurate and decisive in our attack at Rodney Parade on Saturday. Once again, as was the case at Cardiff, the breakdown will be an area of intense competition and the key factor in determining the result of the game.
With our opening fixtures being against three of the four sides who beat us last season, we knew that our ability to start the new campaign in winning form would take a huge effort from our players. They have responded very well and are in great physical shape, but equally we have a lot of room for improvement ahead.
Taking stock of the Cardiff game, we felt that a huge positive was the way that we performed when we were reduced to 14 men, following Gordon Reid’s harsh yellow card, scoring ten unanswered points. Not only did that show huge character in terms of our resilience but it also knocked back Cardiff’s own developing momentum.
In that respect, the impact of our replacements really helped us win. Clearly with Niko Matawalu and DTH van der Merwe coming on as replacements and Niko scoring two tries and DTH making one of these, to a certain extent, they grabbed the headlines. But I also look at the contribution that Fraser Brown made at hooker when he had to come on early in the first half for Pat McArthur and ended up playing for almost the full match, and Fraser can be very pleased with his contribution.
Alex Dunbar backed up his excellent showing against Leinster with another outstanding display and was voted player of the day by his team-mates. Chris Fusaro, Tim Swinson and Peter Murchie must have pushed Alex close for that award, as they were also in great form.
Incidentally, it was interesting to hear Sean Lamont’s glowing feedback on the 4G surface at the BT Sport Arms Park. At 33, Sean may have been the oldest player in our squad on Saturday, but he’s in fantastic physical condition and I think his fine try underlined that point.
Perhaps it is just a coincidence with him scoring on Sunday that Sean has been enthusiastic in his praise of the 4G surface!
It was a busy weekend of rugby for the extended Warriors squad, not just those that were involved down in Cardiff. We had ten pro players involved in the BT Premiership – seven of whom are full internationals – as well another five who are classed as Elite Development Players.
The players integrated really well and it was great to see the likes of James Downey, Will Bordill and Ali Price scoring tries for their respective clubs on Saturday.
We will see more of our squad in action next week, as we play our first A team game against Edinburgh, a match that could also see a return to competitive rugby for Finn Russell and Sean Maitland.