JUST once have the Dragons had a season when try celebrations outnumbered the amount of times they headed under the posts.

The Rodney Parade region were title challengers in 2003/4 when they totted up 59 scores in 22 games and conceded 41. In the 15 campaigns that have followed, the Dragons have operated with a loss.

The seasons immediately after Mike Ruddock's debut effort were pretty respectable – the deficit was just 4 in 2005, 11 in 2006, 7 in 2007, 13 in 2008, 12 in 2009, 5 in 2010, 2 in 2011 (when Ulster scored three tries to one on final day).

But in recent times the gap has grown with the TA column making sorry reading in the last three campaigns.

In 2017 they ended with 71 (-33), in 2018 it was 94 (-51) and last season it was 84 (-47).

Of their peers, the Kings crossed 54 times and let in 107 while Zebre were similar to the Dragons with 35 for and 86 against.

South Wales Argus:

This wasn't down to playing Barbarians rugby or having an approach like the Cheetahs, who shipped 80 tries but scored 80 of their own.

In fact, the attack was part of the reason that the defence was under pressure with the Dragons frequently bossed in the territory and possession percentages.

But the defence has long been identified as an area that needs dramatic improvement, it's just that nobody has been able to get a grip of it.

Last summer the Dragons had Shaun Edwards lined up for a consultancy role only for him to head for the Ospreys instead, while Warren Gatland held some sessions in Ystrad Mynach before his autumn international commitments.

The season started with Hendre Marnitz in charge, then Bernard Jackman took over after sacking his coach, then it was academy manager James Chapron in charge of that department following the Irish boss' December dismissal.

There was the odd strong effort – notably in the festive derbies – but the story of the defensive season was shown by the tally of 13 opponents bagging four-try bonuses from 21 league fixtures.

Big guns Clermont Auvergne and Northampton also both enjoyed a pair of maximum hauls in the European Challenge Cup, crossing for a combined total of 26 tries.

South Wales Argus:

New director of rugby Dean Ryan won't have needed to watch too much footage to establish that defence should go towards the top of his to-do list and he promptly brought in Simon Cross, who he worked with at Worcester.

It is an intriguing initial appointment with the former flanker able to come in for the summer while not needed as head of rugby at Royal Grammar School in Worcester.

I was in Ystrad Mynach on Monday and managed a brief glance at the pitch to observe Cross, rivalling Richard Hibbard with his blond locks, running drills with forwards, challenging them and posing questions in a short and sharp manner.

The Dragons will hope he can lay the foundations in these summer months that help them to become a stingier side, but Ryan will know that the defence needs to be consistently drilled throughout what is a long season.

Whether that is by a permanent appointment or a consultant, coming in to hold sessions for a day or two every week, is yet to be seen.

Perhaps Cross will be able to combine the role with what is clearly a good job at a private school or maybe the post-World Cup merry-go-round will lead to other candidates being available.

South Wales Argus:

But Ryan appears to have been shrewd in one of his first moves since taking the Rodney Parade reins; he has moved swiftly to address a pressing issue but hasn't been rash and handed out a long-term contract.

Jackman arrived with the understandable desire of having specialists after years of coaches spinning plates and one of his first moves was to bring in Marnitz.

The South African was a lovely bloke but his time in Wales just didn't work out and he was given the boot after just 16 months.

By bringing in Cross for the summer, Ryan has given himself breathing space and can plot what will be needed when the consultant coach's students return for the start of the academic year.

The new boss has frequently repeated his mantra of the need for right decisions rather than quick ones if the Dragons are to turn around their fortunes. This call ticks both boxes.

Time will tell whether this is a partnership that can grow but in the meantime the defence specialist wants to get the Dragons snarling.

"Impressed with the Dragons this week," he tweeted at the start of the month. "Tough bunch. Always a brutal opponent and nice to be on the same side as Jason Forster for a change…".

If the players start the season hitting like 'Fozzy' then Ryan may just move to try and sort out a longer deal with Cross.