THE Anglo-Welsh Cup is a tournament in which it truly is acceptable to see the positives in defeat, and the Dragons had plenty despite a heavy defeat in Northampton.

For the second week running the Rodney Parade region looked up at the scoreboard on 80 minutes to see a huge deficit.

But, unlike after the 49-6 hammering at the hands of Munster in Cork, there was some comfort following the 41-7 loss to the Saints at Franklin’s Gardens.

It was always likely to be a tough evening in the East Midlands with the Dragons putting more emphasis on the development aspect of the development competition than their hosts, who had Friday’s return to Aviva Premiership action to build towards.

The English sides boast bigger budgets and larger squads and it showed with Northampton able to field England flanker Tom Wood and replace him with England flanker Teimana Harrison in the final quarter.

But the Dragons showed more tenacity in defence (even if they did still ship six tries) and more intent with ball in hand than they had at Munster.

Their young prospects all showed flashes of their talent to go with moments that will cause their cheeks to turn rosy in the team review.

Debuts were given to full-back Joe Goodchild, on-loan centre Joe Thomas (the Ospreys look to have a talent there) and RGC 1404 number eight Huw Worthington while Wales 7s international Ben Roach and Arwel Robson made first starts at openside and fly-half.

Inexperience showed at key moments in the game – and the Dragons lacked the game control of former Springbok scrum-half Cobus Reinach and ex-England fly-half Stephen Myler – yet the scrum was solid and the driving lineout defence sound against a hefty home pack.

Workaholic young flanker Aaron Wainwright continues to impress, lock Matthew Screech made a welcome return from concussion, hooker Liam Belcher edged ahead in the battle to be Elliot Dee’s deputy and tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother put in a good 80 minutes.

What the Dragons need to do now is make sure they produce a strong display in their long-awaited return to Newport before tricky Guinness PRO14 dates with Leinster and Ulster.

The visitors made a lively start yet the Saints went into the lead when flanker Ben Nutely snaffled an overthrown lineout and charged into the 22 before Juan Pablo Estelles went over down the right.

That was the solitary score of a tight first quarter in which the Dragons had their own bouts of pressure in the 22.

Northampton botched chances close to the line but the Rodney Parade side were unable to work an angle to clear their lines sufficiently.

The pressure eventually told when hooker Reece Marshall barged over for a try that Myler converted for a 12-0 lead at the break.

The fly-half banged over a penalty swiftly after the resumption and then converted after wing Ken Pisi intercepted a pass by Robson as the Dragons crabbed from a driving lineout.

The visitors deservedly got on the scoreboard when Thomas grounded the ball after a Charlie Davies grubber kick through, making it 22-7 after 54 minutes, but the Saints then struck with two very similar scores.

Twice the Dragons failed to clear their lines well enough with Reinach under the sticks after a good burst by Pisi and then a strong run by Harry Mallinder earned a score for Wood.

At 34-7 it could have got really ugly but the Dragons held firm until the closing stages when, with Goodchild in the sin bin for a deliberate knock on, the Saints eventually crossed from close range through Alex Mitchell.

A heavy defeat but there would not have been the same harsh words spoken in the away changing room at Franklin’s Gardens as there were at Musgrave Park.

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