Boss Dean Ryan praised the spirit and effort of his Dragons as they tackled the power of the Vodacom Bulls in an enthralling United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
The Men of Gwent lost 55-20 to an impressive Bulls outfit in Pretoria but left with heads held high after going blow for blow with the impressive South Africans.
Dragons came close to a try bonus point after scores from Rio Dyer, Jared Rosser and Sam Davies.
And Ryan highlighted the positives of a performance against a fully loaded Bulls outfit.
“It’s difficult to be on the receiving end of a result like that, but we still see positives in the youngsters that played, in parts of our attack and our effort,” said the Director of Dragons Rugby.
“The power that is available to the Bulls is very difficult for us. It’s a difficult competition for us, with the resources we have, to be able to answer that kind of power.
“What we can answer is trying to be the best version of what we can be. I thought today was closer to that.
“The effort was outstanding, some of the attack we tried to implement was good too. But at the same time, we have to keep it in context of this competition.
“We had five guys under 22 out there against the Bulls, but they were able to represent themselves in a positive way. That’s all we can control.
“It is well voiced some of our frustrations and how do we get closer to some of the resources that are available to places like the Bulls.
“I am responsible for giving people a platform to be as good as they can be - and today was that for a lot of those players.”
Ryan acknowledged there was no hiding place for Dragons as they now prepare to jet to Durban to tackle the Cell C Sharks.
But he vowed to keep the environment stable as the team look to keep learning and building on the trip.
“We’re in a tournament with fully loaded Bulls, fully loaded Sharks, having come off the back of Munster and Ulster,” said Ryan.
“At the moment we must focus on giving a good account of ourselves. We were disappointed against Munster when that wasn’t the case.
“I am proud of them today. They were under enormous pressure but the effort, when they know in certain areas it is difficult to compete, was fantastic.
“This week I thought the squad were very smart in their preparation; they knew the opportunities that were available.
“We are fully aware of the power that is coming from the South African sides in the URC.
“All we can do is prepare to be as good as we can be, be as smart as we can be, and try and execute and learn. I thought today was one of those days."
I am proud of them today... They were under enormous pressure but the effort, when they know in certain areas it is difficult to compete, was fantastic...