IT would have been tempting for the Covid-hit Dragons to stay at home and cop a 28-0 defeat but they left Bordeaux-Begles with credit, and plenty of lessons, despite a whopping 47-8 loss.

On a weekend when a raft of Champions Cup fixtures were cancelled, the Rodney Parade region headed to the Stade Chaban-Delmas to face formidable opposition without a glut of first-teamers.

Director of rugby Dean Ryan is keen for his squad to experience facing the best in Europe’s premier competition and they will have taken plenty from Bordeaux, even if the scoreboard makes for ugly reading.

They forced the French giants into plenty of errors and it was 12-3 until their line was crossed for a third time with the clock in the red.

A quickfire double at the start of the second half left them needing to roll their sleeves up at 33-3 down They did that despite having to play with a fly-half at full-back, a 12 at 13, Wales centre Nick Tompkins on the wing and a pair of debutants at fly-half and inside centre.

Their reward came when Tompkins sneaked over down the right with a wonderful finish, their solitary try against Bordeaux’s seven.

South Wales Argus: CARRYING: Taine Basham on the charge for the DragonsCARRYING: Taine Basham on the charge for the Dragons

The Dragons were without a raft of seniors because of injuries and coronavirus positives that had also led to others being in isolation.

A tough task against the side who led the 2019/20 TOP14 before it was cancelled got even tougher when fly-half Sam Davies was forced to pull out with because of a calf strain.

That prompted Josh Lewis to move forward from full-back for his first start in his preferred 10 jersey since the upset against the Scarlets at Judgement Day in April, 2019.

Further disruption came in the first half that saw him move back to 15 after wing Jared Rosser suffered a head injury.

That led to Evans Lloyd coming on for his debut with the fly-half followed onto the field by Aneurin Owen, another 20-year-old novice, in the second half.

They featured in a matchday 23 that included 21-year-old flanker Taine Basham, 19-year-old lock Ben Carter, 22-year-old Rosser and 20-year-old speedster Rio Dyer.

The Dragons needed a lot of things to go their way if they were to make a game of it and on seven minutes they got a stinker of a call.

Maxime Lucu sparked an attack with a quick tap, wing Ben Lam carried hard and then flanker Mahamadou Diaby went over in the corner.

The on-field call was that the scrum-half had not knocked it on when going quickly but television replays appeared to show his fingertips brushing the ball.

That footage wasn’t deemed conclusive and Matthieu Jalibert twisted the knife with a touchline conversion.

Lewis responded with a sweetly-struck penalty to get the Dragons on the board and it remained 7-3 entering the second quarter of the game.

The Dragons had defended with tenacity and with organisation against the big home units, while Bordeaux were forced into errors.

South Wales Argus: BREAK: Will Talbot-Davies goes through a gapBREAK: Will Talbot-Davies goes through a gap

However, a series of penalties put the visitors under pressure in their 22, defending lineouts and then scrums.

They heavy boys did the damage and then fleet-footed Argentina wing Santiago Cordero went over in the corner after side-stepping Lewis.

The Dragons looked set to go into the break just 12-3 down but then successive penalties worked the French side to five metres out with the clock in the red.

A cunning move – featuring delightful handling by tighthead Vadim Cobilas – ended with hooker Maxime Lamothe going over in the corner for a score that Jalibert converted superbly.

The second half was never going to be about a remarkable comeback, it was about respectability but it was a nightmare start with Bordeaux securing their bonus after just 16 seconds.

Dyer slapped back the kick-off but it fell for Cameron Woki, who put Cordero over for his second.

The Pumas wing then countered and shipped on to Diaby, whose pass was knocked back by blindside Huw Taylor with the ball scooped up by the impressive Jalibert, who went under the posts before converting for 33-3.

The Dragons needed to dig deep and they did that with Bordeaux having to wait until the hour for their six, which was a cracker featuring the best two players on the pitch with Jalibert putting Cordero over for his hat-trick.

Ryan’s team didn’t want to make the trip home without crossing and they were over themselves when makeshift winger Tompkins finished off superbly down the wing with an in and out, just avoiding the line with his right boot.

But Bordeaux had the final say when Kiwi winger Ben Lam crashed over after some delightful handling.

The Dragons got the experience of playing against French big guns but Ryan will hope that it’s not such a makeshift side that takes to the field against Cardiff Blues in the return to the Guinness PRO14 on Boxing Day.

Bordeaux-Begles scorers: tries - M Diaby, S Cordero (3), M Lamothe, M Jalibert, B Lam; conversions - M Jalibert (5), B Botica

Dragons scorers: try - N Tompkins; conversion - J Lewis