WHAT did for World Cup hopefuls Hong Kong in Ebbw Vale did for World Cup qualifiers Russia in Bedwas as the Dragons edged to a 38-24 win thanks to their tight game.

The region took the spoils against the spirited Bears at Bridge Field thanks to tries in the first half by wing Deon Smith, hooker Rhys Lawrence and flanker Ben Fry then scores in the second by scrum-half Rhodri Davies, centre Jack Dixon and wing Dafydd Howells.

The six tries to three win made it an international double after the 28-24 success against Hong Kong at Eugene Cross Park at the end of last month.

That was earned by an experienced pack keeping it tight to put the squeeze on and the same blueprint was used against the Bears.

Former Dragons boss Lyn Jones’ Russia, who will face hosts Japan, Ireland, Scotland and Samoa at the World Cup, arguably provided the more skilful moments but it was the Dragons’ bulk that earned the win.

With Russia wrapping their first team in cotton wool ahead of their Test against Japan in Gloucester next weekend and the Dragons doing similar with a vital Guinness PRO14 clash with Edinburgh looming, it wasn’t quite the encounter it could have been.

Nonetheless, opportunity knocked for those that took to the field with Bears coaches Lyn Jones and Shaun Connor keen to find out about their fringe players and Bernard Jackman watching to see if any of his charges could force him into a rethink for Rodney Parade next Sunday.

The Dragons fielded an experienced tight five that have all played senior rugby this season while captain Jack Dixon needed a big display to wrestle the 12 jersey back from Jarryd Sage after he lost it through injury.

In truth it wasn’t a game to make the management rip up their plans for Edinburgh, the stop-start nature preventing anyone (on the home side at least) from making a major statement.

The Bears were on the front foot from the off with a scrum penalty followed by kicks to the corner. The Dragons stopped the drive but then lock Alexander Ilin exploited some weak ruck defence to dive over for a sixth-minute try that Ramil Gaisin converted.

Fly-half Gaisin converted but the tourists failed to deal with the restart and the ball was worked to the left for Deon Smith to cut the gap to 7-5.

And the Dragons were in front after 15 minutes after a burst into the 22 from a flat ball by flanker Fry forced an infringement. They went for the corner rather than the posts and hooker Lawrence hit his man before guiding over the maul for an unconverted try.

However, they mirrored the visitors and failed to exit their territory properly from the restart to allow Gaisin to level with a penalty.

It was a stop-start game but the Dragons had a third try on the board after 24 minutes, one again relying on grunt up front for Fry to cross from a driving lineout, fly-half Josh Lewis converting from the touchline to make it 17-10.

It was the tight game that was sapping the legs of the visitors and after one drive and strong surge by Dixon, scrum-half Vasily Dorofeev was yellow-carded for hands in the ruck.

The Dragons went for the kill but Russia held firm thanks to a precious lineout steal as half-time loomed.

And the Bears reaped the rewards of that spirit when they did their hosts like a kipper after an excellent kick to touch from a penalty; the Dragons braced for a drive but instead a trick move at the front put blindside Anton Sychev over.

Gaisin converted and it was level-pegging at 17-17 after 47 minutes, but not for long.

The Dragons scored courtesy of their own trickery at a lineout when rather than driving through the pack they hit midfield for scrum-half Rhodri Davies to expose some weak tackling for a try that Lewis converted.

With 54 on the clock the Dragons had daylight when they exposed a naïve attempted chip to counter excellently through Rhodri Davies and Howells before number eight James Benjamin put Dixon over down the right.

Lewis had found his rhythm and converted from the touchline for 31-17 but they couldn’t shake off the Bears and lock Ilin reached over from close range for his second, Gaisin converting again to make it a seven-point game going into the final quarter.

The Russians were threatening and Gaisin made a super break into the 22 only to lose his composure.

The Dragons were pinned inside their own half and it took good scrambling by wing Howells to win the race to a neat grubber by the dangerous Gaisin.

The hosts were hanging on a little but had the final say when an ambitious dink with the clock in the red was grasped by Howells, who jinked under the posts.

Dragons: C Penny, D Howells, T Hoppe, J Dixon (captain), D Smith, J Lewis, R Davies, R Bevington, R Lawrence, A Jarvis, J Davies, R Landman, H Taylor, B Fry, J Benjamin. Replacements: E Shipp, G Ellis, C Coleman, J Thomas, L Greggains, D Babos, E Lloyd, L Smith.
Scorers: tries – D Smith, R Lawrence, B Fry, R Davies, J Dixon, D Howells; conversions – J Lewis (3), E Lloyd

Russia scorers: tries – A Ilin (2), A Sychev; conversions – R Gaisin (3); penalties – R Gaisin

Referee: Simon Harding (England)