Having played Montpellier and Northampton Saints on successive days last weekend, the Welsh region headed down the M5 to visit one of the most difficult grounds in Europe to get a result.
A side packed full of youngsters due to a midweek sickness bug that laid low 14 players competed hard and gave the home side plenty to think about.
Three of the eight tries scored by the Chiefs came from the power generated by their front five as they picked up a seventh minute penalty try after successive scrum collapses on the Dragons line and then picked up two scores from driving line-outs.
The Dragons response to the opening score from swift and clinical as Wales wing Hallam Amos made the break for centre Adam Warren to cross for the first of his two tries. Angus O’Brien converted to level the scores.
The Italian international Michele Campagnaro then made the running for the second Chiefs try from wing Olly Woodburn, which Henry Slade improved, but a neat chip over the top of the home defence by the impressive O’Brien led to Warren’s second try of the afternoon. O’Brien tied things up at 14-14 with his conversion.
The Chiefs went into the break on the back of a third try, this time scored wide out on the left by full back Max Bodilly, and Slade’s touchline conversion made it 21-14. Fast off the defensive line, competitive at the break down and always looking to move the ball, the Dragons were giving the Chiefs plenty to think about.
There were plenty of changes at half-time in the home ranks and Thomas Waldrom and Gareth Steenson entered the fray. It meant the Chiefs eventually used 10 of the players who helped them to beat Wasps in the Premiership final at the end of last season.
The Chiefs got a flying start to the second half with a try from a driving line-out claimed by No 8 Sam Simmonds which Slade converted. That stretched the gap to 14 points, but in no time at all the Dragons had slashed it to a mere four points.
Zane Kirchner inspired a move that ended with Adam Hughes waltzing over in the left corner on his return to the ground where he played for two seasons and then Sarel Pretorius announced his arrival with a poacher’s try as he snapped up a loose ball on the home line after the Chiefs had failed to deal with a delicate chip ahead by Dorian Jones.
As the English champions turned up the heat in the final 30 minutes, Waldrom and Steenson crossed for tries and then James Short and Campagnaro followed suit after Nic Cudd picked up a yellow card.
Those late tries brought up the half-century of points, but the Dragons were much better, more organised and competitive than the final scoreline suggested. Next up it is Glasgow Warriors at Ebbw Vale’s Eugene Cross Park on Friday afternoon (2.00pm kick-off).
Full Time: Exeter Chiefs 50 - Dragon 24
Dragons: Zane Kirchner, Adam Hughes, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos, Angus O’Brien, Charlie Davies; Brok Harris, Gerard Ellis, Dan Suter, Matthew Screech, Rynard Landman, James Thomas, Nic Cudd, Robson Blake.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Elliot Dee, Luke Garrett, Leon Brown, Max Williams, James Benjamin, Sarel Pretorius, Dorian Jones, Carl Meyer, Dawid Rubasniak, Connor Edwards, Jarred Rosser, Will Talbot-Davies.