Dragons braced for brutal Sharks attack at set piece in bid for Parade double

TEST: Will Rowlands and the Dragons will have to stand firm against the Sharks
TEST: Will Rowlands and the Dragons will have to stand firm against the Sharks

HEAD coach Dai Flanagan believes the Dragons have made strides at the set piece but they face a serious examination at Rodney Parade this evening against a Sharks side that demolished them in Durban.

The Dragons hunt back-to-back wins for the first time since March 2021 when they welcome the South African side to Newport.

On Sunday Flanagan’s men upset the odds against Munster in the United Rugby Championship thanks to a performance full of emotion, energy, aggression and accuracy.

Key to that was standing firm at the set piece – an area of the game where they have frequently fallen apart.

The Dragons cut their penalty count down from an unacceptable 21 in Edinburgh on opening weekend to just eight.

They will be thrilled to keep it to single figures again when they face a Sharks side that are sure to put the squeeze on up front, even in the absence of their Springboks contingent.

Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Jaden Hendrikse and Makazole Mapimpi are not in Newport but the visitors will still have a confrontational approach.

The Sharks won 51-3 when the sides met in Durban last season and it was a drubbing built on a monstrous scrum.

TEST: The Dragons face a big night at the scrum

“It's a key element of any game of rugby. When I played I didn’t respect the scrum, I just wanted the ball in and out as a way of restarting,” said former fly-half Flanagan.

“I was so wrong and since becoming a coach I have realised the value of a good scrum.

“Our scrum has been good and our lineout, specifically our lineout defence, has been excellent.

We have an arm wrestle this week and we have to be smart.

“We need to make sure we control the narrative on how many scrums there are so that we can keep our pack going forward.”

The Dragons ensured that they were solid in the set piece last weekend but kept the number of them down through a low error count.

“Conditions will have a part to play with rain forecast and there could be a strong wind, so there will be two games within one,” said Flanagan.

“We need to focus on how we play the elements and we have put some scenarios in place in training.

“We were fantastic into the wind in the second half against Munster, making the pitch small and keeping the pressure on them with the ball. They didn't really know where to go, which fed us emotionally and gave us something to hit.

“The Sharks will be physical and there is a lot of quality in their side. They have recruited well - their 13 [Ben Tapuai] is some player - and we need to match that physicality.”