DRAGONS boss Bernard Jackman says Gavin Henson gave him the perfect response to his criticism over recent performances in the thriller against Ulster – aided by his teenage half-back partner.

The former Wales and Lions playmaker produced a marvellous performance in the 32-32 draw against the Guinness PRO14 title hopefuls, posing plenty of questions with ball in hand in the 10-try cracker.

Henson, 35, was paired with 17-year-old scrum-half Dan Babos in the absence of Sarel Pretorius, who faces a fitness race to be back for the festive derbies against Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys after suffering a fractured jaw.

And Jackman hailed the way that his fly-half returned to the form that he was showing at the start of the campaign to get the Dragons firing.

“I’ve been pretty critical of our half-backs and we had a really good chat with Gav last week,” said Jackman.

“I thought he brought the ball to the line so much better and made our whole attacking game so much more fluid, allowing our big ball carrying forwards to get on the front foot and be confrontational. That’s something we worked on and it paid off.

“On and off the field Gavin is a really good influence, he is the ultimate pro.

"He is in great shape and hasn’t missed one training session – the only games he’s missed have been because we’ve rested him and that’s testament to his drive to want to get better.”

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Babos became the first player born this millennium to feature in the PRO14 when he came off the bench against Leinster in Dublin and impressed on his first start.

"I thought Babos was really good for a 17-year-old and I left him on for 80 minutes because he was doing such a good job," said Jackman, who had Charlie Davies on the bench.

"I don’t think Gavin had a choice but to play flat as Babos kept putting the ball in front of him so he had to run on to it.

“He’s got loads of energy and it was a great experience for him to play against players like that.

“We need to clip some of his cheekiness but not lose it all! That’s his point of difference because he’s not afraid to boss big, gnarly forwards.”

The Dragons shared the spoils in a dramatic encounter that saw lock Matthew Screech, wing Ashton Hewitt (2), hooker Liam Belcher and full-back Angus O’Brien score tries.

They found back from 8-0 down to be level at 15-15 at half-time, then scrapped from 27-15 down to lead 32-27 only to be denied by Christian Lealiifano’s last-move try, although the Wallabies ace was wide with a conversion to ensure both teams took three points.

“If we hadn’t got a point I saw enough to be able to say that’s a team that wants to represent the jersey and the region really well,” said Jackman, whose side had been thrashed 54-10 at Leinster seven days earlier.

“Character is everything. Character is more important than talent. But now we have to back it up, we can’t just do it when we are being put under pressure, abused, slagged off and ridiculed.

“It’s easy to do that when fighting your way out of a corner. Can we do it next week when people are saying ‘well done, you’ve had a great match’? That’s the challenge now.”