THE Dragons can start the countdown to Limerick with a spring in their step after a morale-boosting 34-17 friendly win against the Scarlets at Rodney Parade.

Pre-season clashes are more about performance than result but new boss Dean Ryan would have been happy with both.

Tries by wings Ashton Hewitt, in his first game for 16 months after a shoulder injury nightmare, and Owen Jenkins earned a 15-0 half-time lead.

Further scores by fly-half Sam Davies, replacement wing Will Talbot-Davies and a last-gasp second from Jenkins ensured director of rugby Ryan was given a warm-up success before the real stuff starts.

Defence was strong when the Scarlets put the pressure on in the first half – no prizes for guessing that flanker Ollie Griffiths was in the thick of it – and the Dragons looked organised as they prepare for the Guinness PRO14 opener against Munster at Thomond Park at the end of the month.

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The midfield partnership of sharp-again Jack Dixon and Adam Warren was influential with and without the ball while fly-half Sam Davies provided the control that has been needed for years.

All these positives must be accompanied by the asterisk of it only being a friendly, while on the negative side of things lock Brandon Nansen’s return to action last just 13 minutes.

The Samoa forward, who suffered a hamstring injury in Llanelli in January, left the field with his right arm in a makeshift sling – not the afternoon that he wanted after he missed the cut for the World Cup.

That was a fly in the ointment on an encouraging afternoon in the Newport sun, with arguably the most pleasing aspect being the return of the man with 11 on his back.

Hewitt was to the fore from the first whistle, claiming the kick-off from his good friend Angus O’Brien and getting a morale-boosting carry immediately on his return after 16 months out.

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It got even better for the speedster with a try after five minutes after an attack started by a strong Dixon carry and an offload out the back by his midfield partner Warren. The ball was worked left for Hewitt to fend and then finish for a 5-0 lead.

Ryan would have wanted a positive performance but also a clean bill of health, but he was denied that when Nansen was forced off.

The play was almost exclusively in the Dragons’ half but they soaked up the pressure with some good defensive hits.

A blitz then forced a turnover and a foray into Scarlets territory that earned a penalty for Davies, who had earlier struck the right post with his conversion, to make it 8-0 after 29 minutes.

A minute later it was 15-0 after the Dragons centres once again combined, Warren snaffling a turnover and Dixon putting in a canny kick over the top.

Scarlets full-back Johnny McNicholl made a mess of gathering the ball and wing Jenkins, with the Dragons ahead of Wales duty in the World Rugby Sevens Series, hacked on and scored a try that Davies converted.

The home side finished the half on the front foot but were unable to turn pressure in the 22 into points, with the frustration at missed opportunities growing when the new fly-half pulled a simple penalty at goal.

Hewitt came off at half-time as planned – the influential speedster will have felt superb after coming through unscathed – but the Dragons didn’t lose any of their cutting edge.

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They went 22-0 up four minutes after the restart thanks to seven points from fly-half Davies, who converted his own try that was made by a peach of a Dixon pass to Warren, who put the ball back inside for scrum-half Rhodri Williams to provide the assist.

The Scarlets finally broke their duck after 53 minutes when, after penalties were kicked to within five metres, fast feet from Wales wing Steff Evans put replacement fly-half Dan Jones over to make it 22-5.

Those points were swiftly cancelled out with a slick attack (albeit against passive defence) that saw the centres and Jordan Williams put Talbot-Davies galloping over for 27-5.

The Scarlets hit back with a lovely try with 15 minutes left when centre Corey Baldwin was put over down the right flank after a midfield surge by wing Ryan Conbeer.

Dan Jones converted superbly and the Dragons were given the chance to work on being a man down when a high penalty count led to Taine Basham, only just on for the superb Griffiths, being sin-binned.

But the Scarlets failed to give the home side any nerves and finished with 14 themselves after former Dragons loosehead Phil Price was sin-binned for a scrum offence.

Nonetheless, they soon went over for their third try when a poor Sam Davies pass was snaffled by wing Tomi Lewis, who had too much in the tank for Warren and made it 27-17.

No bother, the Dragons went straight back down the other end with Jordan Williams cutting through before Baldwin and Sam Davies put it through the hand for Jenkins to enjoy his second score.

The fly-half converted with the final kick to round off a more than useful workout for Ryan’s men.

Dragons: J Williams, A Hewitt, A Warren, J Dixon, O Jenkins, S Davies, R Williams (captain), B Harris, R Hibbard, L Fairbrother, B Nansen, Screech, H Taylor, O Griffiths, L Evans. Replacements: E Shipp, R Bevington, L Brown, J Davies, T Basham, L Baldwin, J Botica, W Talbot-Davies, A Owen.

Scorers: tries – A Hewitt, O Jenkins (2), S Davies, W Talbot-Davies; conversions – S Davies (3); penalty – S Davies

Scarlets: J McNicholl, R Conbeer, C Baldwin, S Hughes (captain), S Evans, A O'Brien, K Hardy, R Evans, M Jones, S Lee, L Rawlins, S Cummins, T Phillips, J Macleod, U Cassiem. Replacements: D Booth, P Price, W Kruger, J Helps, E Kennedy, D Davies, D Blacker, D Jones, P Asquith, T James.

Scorers: tries – D Jones, C Baldwin, T Lewis; conversions – D Jones

Referee: Adam Jones (WRU)

Attendance: 2,657