NORTHAMPTON got the result but the Dragons got the response that had been demanded with a battling display in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Franklin’s Gardens.

The Rodney Parade region headed into the clash on the back of a Guinness PRO14 hammering at Munster – comfortably their worst performance of the season – and the squad had been told in no uncertain terms that better was required.

They field 17 of the 23 that had lost 49-6 in Cork and the reaction was a good one, albeit in a comprehensive six tries to one loss.

The Saints had much more experience in their ranks but the young Dragons showed plenty of heart in the East Midlands.

Their inexperience showed at times but they defended with tenacity and managed to pose a few questions in attack, certainly more than they did at Musgrave Park.

They will now need to use Friday’s visit of the Scarlets to build for the tough PRO14 fixtures with Leinster and Ulster.

The Anglo-Welsh has historically been a tough but worthwhile competition for the Dragons, one that exposes their lack of squad depth against Aviva Premiership sides with more financial clout.

Nonetheless, it has provided the chance to blood the next generation and on November 12 last year Leon Brown made his regional debut at Leicester. While his teammates were in action in the East Midlands this year, the 21-year-old tighthead was in Cardiff with Wales.

The Saints encounter gave the chance for the likes of full-back Joe Goodchild, wing Jared Rosser, fly-half Arwel Robson and flanker Aaron Wainwright to test themselves on a big stage after coming through the academy.

Added to that was an opportunity for on-loan Ospreys centre Joe Thomas and RGC 1404 number eight Huw Worthington to catch the eye while the pressure was on a handful of senior figures to put on a better show after last week’s shambles in Munster.

They were up against a pretty strong Northampton squad with the Saints keen to build towards next week’s return to Aviva Premiership action against Newcastle by fielding a number of senior figures.

It was a similar story when the Dragons had visited Franklin’s Gardens in November, 2010 to be greeted by a raft of first-teamers, notably hefty props Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati.

The Rodney Parade region suffered a 28-3 loss on that occasion and a similar deficit was expected given the presence of Tom Wood, Ken Pisi, Harry Mallinder, Michael Paterson, Cobus Reinach and Stephen Myler in the home XV.

So it proved, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story even if the hosts – whose strength was highlighted by swapping England flanker Teimana Harrison for England flanker Tom Wood in the final quarter – were good value for a handsome win.

The Dragons made a lively start, keen to shift the ball and avoid a slugfest with English opposition.

But Northampton worked their way into the game, aided by a faltering Welsh lineout that helped provide the opener.

An overthrow was gratefully pounced upon by flanker Ben Nutely, who charged into the 22 where the ball was worked right for Juan Pablo Estelles to go over.

However, that was the only score of a keenly-contested first quarter and the Dragons then had a bout of pressure after going close from a neat break by fly-half Robson that was continued by centre Thomas and grubbered to the corner by scrum-half Charlie Davies.

Wing Ashton Hewitt was beaten to the ball by the covering defence but he earned a five-metre lineout. The Dragons put the squeeze on but were unable to get any change out of the well-drilled Saints.

However, the visitors weren’t disheartened and, with the scrum going well, did not give Northampton any easy escapes.

They kept pressing and were posing a few questions with ball in hand, the Ospreys looking to have a real prospect on their hands in centre Thomas.

But it was the Saints who went closest to grabbing the next score when a lively 50-metre jinking break by Reinach – albeit aided by some holding off the ball – ended with the ball flung to the right flank where centre Rory Hutchinson knocked on with the line at his mercy.

There was another close thing when Northampton hammered away at the line before Mallinder’s offload was knocked on by flanker Ben Nutely.

Alas, the Dragons were unable to get out of their own 22 despite some plucky defence and the inevitable happened in the 40th minute when hooker Reece Marshall burrowed over for a try that Myler converted.

Nonetheless, the young visitors could be pretty content with their determined effort in the first half and needed to keep fighting to avoid a repeat of the summer second-half avalanche.

The Saints were first to strike after the resumption – Myler punishing a Charlie Davies high tackle – and it was soon 22-0 after some Dragons misfortune.

The visitors were looking to press in the Northampton 22 but Robson’s pass was picked off by wing Ken Pisi, who just had enough pace to beat Hewitt and Goodchild to the line for a try that Myler improved.

But the Dragons weren’t disheartened and soon scored their first points of a crisp evening with Thomas gathering a neat grubber by Davies after a driving lineout in the 22.

Robson converted to make it 22-7 after 54 minutes but the hosts had their bonus point try in the bag before the hour after exploiting disorganised defence from a counter-attack, Reinach put under the posts by lock Michael Paterson after a burst by Pisi.

History soon repeated itself from a clearance kick with a lovely Mallinder run then offload putting former England flanker Tom Wood over for a 34-7 lead.

The Dragons dug deep and it wasn’t until the 78th minute that the Saints crossed again – with Goodchild in the bin for a deliberate knock on it was replacement scrum-half Alex Mitchell that snuck over from close range with James Grayson converting.

It may have been 41-7 but there shouldn’t be long faces – unlike Cork there were at least some positives in defeat.

Northampton: H Mallinder (B Foden 61), JP Estelles, R Hutchinson, T Stephenson, K Pisi, S Myler (J Grayson 58), C Reinach (A Mitchell 59), F van Wyk, R Marshall (M Haywood 62), J Ford-Robinson (P Hill 59), M Paterson (A Moon 61), S Dickinson (captain), T Wood (T Harrison 67), B Nutely, M Eadie.

Scorers: tries – JP Estelles, R Marshall, K Pisi, C Reinach, T Wood, A Mitchell; conversions – S Myler (3), J Grayson; penalty – S Myler

Dragons: J Goodchild, J Rosser, J Thomas, P Howard, A Hewitt (A Warren 61), A Robson (A O’Brien 61), C Davies (O Leonard 61), L Garrett (T Davies 67), L Belcher (G Ellis 70), L Fairbrother, M Screech (S Andrews 70, B Harris 75), R Landman, A Wainwright, B Roach, H Worthington (L Greggains 64).

Scorers: try – J Thomas; conversion – A Robson

Referee: Mike English (WRU)

Attendance: 9,347

Argus star man: Aaron Wainwright