IT'S always perilous to read too much into pre-season friendlies but for the last 20 minutes at Franklin's Gardens it was utterly pointless.

The 71-21 scoreline when referee JP Doyle blew his whistle, something that everybody wishes he could have done around 10 minutes earlier, suggests it was a farce of a fixture between the Dragons in Northampton.

It wasn't, despite the ridiculous closing stages courtesy of a masochistic fixture schedule.

On Friday evening a Dragons side had gone up against Top 14 giants Montpellier in Aveyron, losing 40-15 against a hefty pack, and on Saturday afternoon another more youthful team played Northampton.

The Saints named two different teams for each half while the Dragons had 23 players, five of which (full-back Zane Kirchner, centre Adam Warren, fly-half Dorian Jones, tighthead Brok Harris and lock Rynard Landman) can be classed as experienced professionals.

The squad was filled with promising academy prospects and a handful of Principality Premiership players. They had barely trained together and everyone was ill-equipped for a long shift.

The boxing equivalent of the Saints fixture would be going up against Manny Pacquiao for six rounds and getting off your stool for the seventh to be greeted by Floyd Mayweather.

The result was predictable, and the lack of training time together meant defence was always going to be shaky, but it should be noted that the score was just 26-21 early in the second half.

Head coach Bernard Jackman and his management staff missed the opening exchanges after catching an early flight from the south of France to Stansted then travelling to Northampton but they will learn a few things from the footage of the first hour. They should just bin the final quarter.

South Wales Argus:

"It was a good exercise for us at 60 minutes when we were in the game," said academy boss James Chapron, who was in charge.

"There were some errors, as is to be expected because we weren't able to train much in the week, but the younger boys really stood up and the older boys held up their end of the bargain.

"At 60 minutes we were in it but they were bringing on fresh legs and we didn't have the depth to deal with that.

"It's never nice to lose but it's the first game of pre-season and it's about building. We will take the first 60 minutes, dissect it and it will be a learning curve for the younger boys and for everyone else it's about improvement.

"It's the first step on the journey and for people like Jared Rosser, Owain Leonard, Dawid Rubasniak it was a great opportunity.

"Our effort was there. We asked them to be world class for effort, that's one of our big things, and while some of the detail was missing, the energy to carry ball and keep going was there."

The Dragons opened the scoring in the second minute when fly-half Dorian Jones, who was inventive throughout and kicked nicely out of hand, cunningly chipped over the top for centre Adam Warren to go over.

Northampton responded with four tries to lead 26-7 after a quarter after exploiting a slightly indecisive defence that had been flung together.

Centre Tom Stephenson and wing Tom Collins went over with jinking efforts, both converted by fly-half James Grayson, and hooker Mikey Haywood and flanker Jamie Gibson went over from close range at the end of attacks from deep.

The Dragons scored either side of half-time with Jones grubber kicking, then hacking, then winning a foot race with Ben Ford before Rosser intercepted and scored away from 80 metres.

At 26-21 the score was respectable but Northampton had plenty more gears to go through while the Dragons' tank was empty.

Tries came thick and fast from hooker Charlie Clare (2), back row forwards Mitch Eadie and David Ribbans, centre Nafi Tuitavake, full-back Harry Mallinder and flanker Lewis Ludlam.

The score may give some of the Dragons' long-standing critics a chuckle but it was merely a reflection of the ambitious, almost reckless, schedule.

Jackman will be relieved to have just Exeter to think about this weekend when he will have the ability to play around 30 first teamers should he choose to do so.

Northampton scorers: tries – T Stephenson, T Collins, M Haywood, J Gibson, C Clare (2), M Eadie, D Ribbans, N Tuitavake, H Mallinder, L Ludlam; conversions – J Grayson (4), P Francis (4)

Dragons: Z Kirchner, J Rosser, A Warren, C Edwards, J Goodchild (B Nightingale 24), D Jones (M O'Brien 63), O Leonard (J Leadbeater 40), L Garrett (K Bale 34, D Suter 40), L Belcher (G Ellis 40), B Harris (captain, K Bale 63), H Williams, R Landman (M Allen 63), M Allen (A Waite 57), D Rubasniak (R Jenkins 59), R Blake.

Scorers: tries – A Warren, D Jones, J Rosser; conversions – D Jones (3)

Referee: JP Doyle (England)