Welsh rugby: Five things learned from URC weekend four

For the first time in their 20-year history, all four regions lost at home in the league on the same weekend.

From Cardiff on Friday night, to west Wales on Saturday and Dragons on Sunday afternoon, it was a forgettable set of results on Remembrance Day weekend.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland did the rounds, watching at the Arms Park, Stadium and Rodney Parade.

So what will he and the rest of Welsh rugby have learned from the fourth week of the United Rugby Championship (URC)?

Late giveaways

The lack of a winning mentality showed across the board.

A closely contested weekend demonstrated the sheer competitiveness of the league with six of the eight beaten teams still picking up losing bonus points.

However the Welsh regions are making an unfortunate habit of throwing away commanding positions.

After Cardiff and Dragons in the first round, Ospreys and Scarlets will be kicking themselves for throwing away wins on Saturday having both led their respective games on 75 minutes - yet still managed to lose.

"When you're ahead by nine points with six minutes to go, you can't lose the game," said Scarlets head coach Peel after his side's 24-23 loss to Lions.

"That's the hard thing. We put ourselves in a winning position but the young players are learning it's all about execution

"It is not about getting over it, we have to move on and look forward to next week."

Taine trouble

Taine Basham leaves the field
Taine Basham become only the second player sent off in the URC this season

Wales internationals returned in their biggest numbers this round but Taine Basham swapped his red jersey for a red card in Dragons' 33-10 loss to Leinster.

The flanker's workmanlike performance was overshadowed by a moment of sheer petulance when he put an elbow into the back of Ross Byrne's head after the Leinster fly-half kicked clear.

"It was very silly. Taine wants to be a top-end player but top-end players don't do things like that," was his coach Dai Flanagan's withering assessment.

"Emotion and anger gets the better of people but it's hard to defend him after an action like that.

"We know that he's better than that and we have to help him through this."

Basham will now miss Saturday's derby against Ospreys and possibly more.

The only other player sent off in the URC this season was Cardiff prop Ciaran Parker.

Driving lineouts

When the league's top try-scorer is a hooker, that illustrates what is now the most potent weapon in rugby.

With defences ever more structured, the lineout maul sets a platform by sucking in defences when done well and is an almost unstoppable force when executed perfectly.

It was like groundhog day at where all four Glasgow tries in their 31-23 win over Ospreys stemmed from lineouts, including a brace for hooker Johnny Matthews who now tops the charts with five.

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth said: "Last season we had the best driving maul defence and we're pretty good at it ourselves but we will take that personally.

"But prevention is better than the cure and you have to look at how they got into those positions in the first place. The best rolling maul defence is not to have one."

Ospreys centre Keiran Williams and Scarlets hooker Ryan Elias also benefitted from their teams' similar efforts.

Tech issues

It was not just Basham's indiscipline that annoyed Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan.

He was fuming after discovering at half-time at Rodney Parade that the match officials had been unable to hear each other due to a microphone malfunction.

"We could hear the touch judge calling 'blue infringement, blue infringement, offside', which the ref hasn't given, and then we found out at half-time the mics weren't working.

"We want this to be a good league and do things properly but that is difficult to accept.

"I've been public about how good I think the URC is but it's also important that I say it when things are really, really poor."

The comments follow Scarlets' complaints that officials in their game at Stormers were unable to review a suspected high tackle because of a lack of cameras at the venue.

Harri Millard running
No player has made more clean breaks (seven) in the URC this season than Cardiff's Harri Millard

Hanekom for Wales?

One thing that Bulls' World Cup-winning head coach Jake White learned from BBC Wales was that one of his players was Welsh qualified.

Number eight Cameron Hanekom, who has represented South Africa Under-20s, qualifies for Wales through his grandmother.

He was dynamic against Cardiff, beating as many players and making as many offloads as any other player on the pitch despite just 40 minutes as a replacement.

This, after a man of the match display against Scarlets on the opening weekend.

"I didn't know until one of the BBC commentators told me at training!" revealed White.

"He's a great talent. He was voted the best player in an U20s tournament a couple of years back and he's still only 21.

"He's been a good find for the public, but we knew he was in our system and that it was always inevitable he would come through into our mix."

White, who recently admitted turning down the Wales job in 2007 was the biggest mistake of his career, added: "There are some really good loose forwards coming through for Wales, like Jac Morgan and Taine Plumtree, so just because you qualify for Wales doesn't mean you will necessarily get picked."