Boss Dean Ryan admitted a ‘passive’ finale to a European Challenge Cup epic with Northampton Saints had cost Dragons a potential huge scalp – but he was still left with plenty of positives from the last 16 showdown.
An unforgettable 11-try encounter at Rodney Parade saw Dragons storm into a commanding 39-24 lead on the hour, courtesy of tries from Ashton Hewitt (2), lock Matthew Screech, fly-half Sam Davies and prop Leon Brown.
But a heart-breaking ending saw the Saints score late through Teimana Harrison, Taqele Naiyaravoro and finally Tom Collins to edge a breathless encounter.
“That last 20 minutes we went a bit passive. We hung in rather than trying to go after them,” said the Director of Dragons Rugby.
“We knew that they were going to lift the pace of the game and run from deep, but we were more worried about making a mistake than being aggressive in terms of trying to stop it.
“They are too good a side for that, we knew they were going to run from the kick-offs and we knew they were going to try and throw everything at us. It got faster and we couldn’t get it under control.
“In other competitions you can hold a team and hope somebody makes a mistake, but you can’t do that at this level.
“You have to keep doing what you had done for the previous 50 or 60 minutes but we didn’t and paid the penalty for that in the end.
“It’s a huge lesson for us. We know we can play at that level, but you’ve got to keep playing and keep taking risks, not try and get to the end.
“You see the lead and want to get to the end. Nobody wants to make a mistake, but that is the time when you have got to take the biggest risk. We just didn’t do that.”
Despite the cruel late defeat, Ryan insists there are plenty of reasons for optimism as Dragons look ahead to the Rainbow Cup bid later this month.
“There were moments in that game when we played some really good stuff and we shouldn’t lose sight of that,” he said.
“We have got a lot of confidence in attack and we are incredibly physical at the moment, which is causing problems for sides.
“I don’t think anybody came here thinking that we were going to pour tries onto Northampton and we did.
“What we have got to be is better when we are in that dominant position and nail games. When you play at the top table you have to play for every minute the game is on.
“What we have got to be is more consistent, which seems to be where we are at the moment, and stronger from those experiences when playing good sides because you cannot be a passenger when playing a side as good as Northampton.”
You have to keep doing what you had done for the previous 50 or 60 minutes but we didn’t and paid the penalty for that in the end...