Director of Dragons Rugby Dean Ryan is pleased with the progress of Dragons young stars following the thrilling encounter with Leicester Tigers last weekend.
In their first of two pre-season fixtures the Men of Gwent travelled to the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium with a youthful squad to take on the might of the English giants.
The hosts claimed victory in a thrilling encounter thanks to a late Nemani Nadolo score but boss Ryan is pleased with how comfortable the youngsters looked on the field.
Ryan also praised the ‘outstanding’ James Benjamin who made his first appearance at hooker for Dragons since making the transition from the back row at the region.
“I don’t think you have a pre-season game where you can come out with a real tangible outlook” said the Nottinghamshire born coach.
“But what we did see was some of our youngsters that have grown a year, I think Josh Reynolds and Chris Coleman looked comfortable at that level and we saw James Benjamin who has made a transition and I thought he was outstanding for the window he was on the pitch.
“I think especially that window when our internationals weren’t available, just to see a collective growth of that younger element of our squad was quite pleasing.
“I think you go back a year, with them coming into the first team, quite stressful and a big gap for them, now they look quite competent in that area and our desire is that they go on and really relish those opportunities that come.”
Dragons went into half time 21-0 down in Leicester before mounting a second half comeback to bring the scores level at 28-28 just over ten minutes to go.
The former Worcester Warriors boss admits he was pleased with his side’s second half performance but was frustrated they couldn’t claim victory in their first pre-season outing.
“I think it was like all pre-season games, it looked like we haven’t played for a half then we started to galvanise a little bit.
“You got to remember that we are probably a week or two behind them because of their earlier start to the season and I think the first forty minutes probably reflected that.
“I was quite pleased that when you got that sort of start the danger is you try and chase something and it actually becomes really detrimental.
“But I actually thought we chased quite well, I thought Jamie (Roberts) was excellent at sort of galvanising the energy and I think we probably ended with some frustrating that we didn’t go on and win it.”
Next up for the Dragons is a trip to Coventry to face the Wasps on Sunday afternoon at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
Ryan admits it’s a great opportunity for his men to test themselves following the disappointment of last season’s covid hit fixture in the European Champions Cup.
“Wasps are probably one of the most dangerous sides around, you put them in pre-season and then the danger of that gets really sort of significant.
“We have got to try and play a controlled game in a pre-season game which sometimes is quite alien you know 26 players lots of changes.
“They are a lot more used to playing in an unstructured chaotic environment than we are, with it being pre-season we got to try and keep some form of order to things.
He continued “I think we are quite excited as well because we were a bit disappointed with the European game last year when we got hit by covid, and I know this doesn’t have the same stakes on it but I don’t think we ever got the chance to represent ourselves to the best we could when we were playing.
“We are quite excited that we can test ourselves with something that we missed last year, and hopefully we can put our best foot forward.”