Dragons XV played some sparkling attacking rugby but were narrowly edged out 24-19 by Connacht Eagles in an entertaining opening Celtic Cup clash at The Sportsground on Friday afternoon.
Head Coach Luke Narraway picked a young team – 18 of the matchday squad were 21 or under - for the Round 1 clash, as Dragons looked to back up the 53-38 success they enjoyed in Wales last season.
First half tries from James McCarthy and Connor Edwards in Galway saw the teams locked together at the break and wing Rio Dyer crossed after the break as Dragons played with lots of intent and desire.
A late score from home Number Eight Mikey Wilson ultimately proved the difference, but Dragons can take huge heart and positives from the display ahead of next Friday’s visit of Munster A to Rodney Parade.
Home fly half Conor Dean opened the scoring with an early penalty before McCarthy marked his return to the region this summer with a stunning score.
The Dragons back line clicked in devastating fashion and sliced through before Anuerin Owen applied the final pass for McCarthy to win the race to the corner
Dragons were having to defend strongly after Luke Carty intercepted a loose pass and two penalties from the boot of Dean put the hosts ahead.
Back came the Dragons and a period of sustained pressure finally told just after the half hour when centre Edwards, now back to full fitness, went over and Evan Lloyd added the extras for a 12-9 lead.
Dean, though, nudged over a long range penalty to draw the teams level at the break.
Connacht struck again moments after half-time when a charged down clearing kick was collected by flanker Lucas Culliton who dotted down.
A third converted try for Dragons from wing Dyer edged them two points ahead but, with the home scrum beginning to apply pressure, a try from Wilson at the base sent Connacht clear.
Dragons were unlucky when a penalty ten minutes from time rebounded back off the upright and the young team produced a thrilling finale only to be edged out by the Eagles.
Dragons XV are next in action on Friday (August 30) when Munster A visit Rodney Parade. Tickets are £5 for adults and FREE entry for Under-16s and Season Members. Click HERE to buy.
09m Dean p 3-0
14m McCarthy t 3-5
19m Dean p 6-5
24m Dean p 9-5
31m Edwards t Lloyd c 9-12
32m Dean p 12-12
41m Culliton t 17-12
50m Dyer t Lloyd c 17-19
63m Wilson t Dean c 24-19
Connacht Eagles: Conor Hayes, Hugh Lane, Seán O’Brien, Luke Carty, Peter Sullivan, Conor Dean, Stephen Kerins; Matthew Burke, Jonny Murphy, Conor Kenny, Niall Murray, Cillian Gallagher, Seán Masterson, Lucas Culliton, Mikey Wilson
Replacements: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Conor Maguire, Ryan Lomas, Cormac Daly, Declan Adamson, Aran Hehir, Dylan Prendergast, Diarmuid Kilgannen
Dragons XV: Owen Jenkins, Rio Dyer, Connor Edwards, Aneurin Owen, James McCarthy, Evan Lloyd, Dafydd Buckland; Jack Cosgrove, Ellis Shipp, Luke Yendle, Ed Scragg, Max Williams, Ben Roach, Lennon Greggains, Ben Fry
Replacements: Will Griffiths, Josh Reynolds, Henry Hibbs, Max Ayling, Benji Hoppe, Dan Babos, Jacob Botica, Joe Goodchild