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The Only Way Is Up And All That: Dragon Round Up

If you judge Welsh sports by results then it was six of the worst at the weekend.

Wales’ top two-ranked football clubs – Cardiff City and Swansea City – both lost, as did the four Welsh rugby regions.

The only way is up and all that.

Newport County also lost in League Two, but at least Wrexham kept the red flag flying by earning a 1-1 draw at Bradford City.

It left Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson satisfied after he returned to his old club, although it might have been better had they clung on to a lead provided by striker Paul Mullin.

The result leaves the Dragons fourth in League Two – just two points and one place outside the automatic promotion places.

“It was a hard-earned point,” said Parkinson.

“I knew coming here today with a full-house that it was going to be a feisty encounter.

“It was fast and furious at times and of course, when you go a goal ahead you want to take the three points but we had to withstand pressure in the second period.

“I thought the way we defended our box was outstanding; some of the defending was top class.

Wrexham’s Welsh League Two rivals Newport County threw away a much-needed victory when they allowed Walsall to fight back and earn a 3-3 draw at Rodney Parade.

Manager Graham Coughlan’s side had led three times in the game, but Freddie Draper capitalised on defensive errors to score a hat-trick.

“Our defensive frailties are really, really irritating me at this moment,” Coughlan said.

“I think you can look back at every goal we’ve conceded this season and they are down to individual errors.

“Whether that’s because we’re getting uptight, whether we’re getting ourselves nervous or whether we’re feeling a little bit of pressure… Yes, they are young lads, but that’s still no excuse for conceding the goals that we’re conceding.”

Higher up the food chain, both Swansea City and Cardiff City in the Championship, with the Swans’ five-game unbeaten run coming to an end.

Swans captain Matt Grimes finished on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline as Leicester City came from behind and made history by becoming the first ever side in the second tier to win their opening six away matches of a league campaign.

“I’ve been playing in the Championship for a long time now and that’s the best team I’ve played against,” said Grimes.

“They’re a very good side with Premier League quality, and you can see that with the players they played and the subs they brought on.

“There were things to work on of course, but I don’t think we played badly. We were right in the game, and there were just a few moments in key periods that went against us.”

Erol Bulut has ordered his Cardiff City players to harden up after they lost their third match in five to drop further down the Championship table.

A 1-0 reverse at Blackburn Rovers has left the Bluebirds in 11th place as they crashed to a third successive away defeat.

“It was a game between two teams that didn’t create many chances and always looked like one in which the first side that scored would go on to win,” said manager Bulut.

“We have to be more focussed, sharp and aggressive in those situations and areas of the pitch. In the last 20 minutes, we tried hard to score, but it wasn’t enough.”

Dwayne Peel summed up the size of the task that all the Welsh rugby regions face this season after a difficult opening weekend of the URC campaign.

All four sides lost, with the Scarlets and Ospreys suffering on the road, while both Cardiff and the Dragons lost in front of their own fans.

Scarlets coach Peel watched his team get trampled over by the Bulls as they lost 63-21 in South Africa to complete a conspicuous weekend whitewash.

Taine Plumtree marked his Scarlets debut with a pair of tries but they were outclassed by Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

“We had a lesson in execution,” said Peel.

“The Bulls were very clinical, especially in that first 25 minutes, they punished every error we made.

“We came back into it and I’m disappointed we didn’t get the bonus point for four tries, but at the end of the day we didn’t really deserve it.”

Toby Booth has admitted his Ospreys team were “a rabbit in the headlights” at Connacht where they lost their United Rugby Championship opener.

Booth conceded the visitors gave themselves far too much to do to recover, even though they ran in three second half tries to at least secure a bonus-point against last season’s URC semi-finalists in Galway before losing 34-26.

The Ospreys produced a stirring second-half fightback after they trailed 27-5 at the break, but it still wasn’t enough to stop the home side’s new head coach, Pete Wilkins, marking his competitive debut with a win.

“We were a little bit rabbit in the headlights [in the first half] – a new group, younger players and these are the margins,” said Booth.

“You come to a place like this and if they see you’re a bit passive, they’ll go over the top of you.

“Then we found our feet, a bit of self-belief and thought, ‘we can compete here’. The youngsters came on and brought a lot of energy because they had no respect for anyone which was great and infectious, and we looked a lot better for it.”

Cardiff coach Matt Sherratt admitted his team got what they deserved after they lost at home to Benetton.

The Italians won 23-22 at the Arms Park after they snatched victory following a straight red card given to Cardiff prop Ciaran Parker for a reckless high tackle.

Jacob Umaga nailed a penalty after Benetton prop Simone Ferrari had been laid out by a shoulder to the head from debut-making Cardiff prop Parker, who was sent off for dangerous play.

“Ciaran (Parker) actually did very well when he came on and made a real impact but that error is unfortunate, especially when there was just 90 seconds left. It’s just about learning technique but we have no complaints about the red,” said Sherratt.

The Dragons also lost after giving away too many penalties at Rodney Parade and succumbing, 22-17 to Edinburgh.

Ben Healy kicked five of those penalties to see the Scottish side home and Dragons coach Dai Flanagan admitted: “You can’t win at any level with our penalty count, especially against a kicker like Ben Healy.

“We lost momentum and the referee with our decisions because we were ill-disciplined and then he is only refereeing one team then and rightly so.”

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