A MOMUMENTAL defensive effort wasn’t enough for the Dragons to cause a huge upset in the United Rugby Championship against PRO14 kings Leinster.

That the rattled Irish heavyweights were happy to kick the ball off for a 7-6 victory and had been killing the clock shows the size of the effort by Dean Ryan’s men at a Rodney Parade that got more raucous as the belief grew into the closing stages.

The Dragons withstood a battering at times to limit the damage to 7-0 and then Sam Davies kicked a pair of penalties to make it a one-point game as the clock ticked towards 80.

A day that started with the expectation of Leinster leaving with a four-try bonus ended with them looking to avoid a first loss to the men from Rodney Parade since 2015.

Alas, the Dragons couldn’t quite find one more score in a frantic finale and had to settle for a second successive consolation bonus after being edged out by the Ospreys on opening weekend.

Last season they fought back from a slow start to close to within a score against a weakened, but certainly not weak, Leinster but this time they were always in it against the near full-strength champs.

It was a huge effort by a Dragons side who spent a spell down to 13 men in the first half after yellow cards for scrum-half Lewis Jones and full-back Josh Lewis.

No victory but defence coach Simon Cross would have been thrilled by the way his men stood up to the Leinster machine; it wasn’t at its well-oiled best and the spirited hosts deserve credit for that.

It must be years since the Irish giants have endured so many fruitless trips to the opposition 22, with Wales forwards Ross Moriarty and Will Rowlands relishing the physical confrontations.

South Wales Argus:

After living off scraps the Dragons rather snatched at their own attacking opportunities but there is plenty of reason for optimism ahead of Saturday’s clash with Connacht.

That will be just as tough in the notorious Galway conditions and the same tenacity and a bit more accuracy in key moments will be needed to end the four-year, now 22-game winless streak against the Irish provinces.

Leinster started on the front foot in the greasy conditions but the Dragons’ defence stood firm, repelling one five-metre drive before Ollie Griffiths came up with a timely rip.

The visitors kept the pressure on and it paid off, firstly with a yellow card for home scrum-half Lewis Jones when a driving lineout was stopped illegally and then with seven points.

Leinster tapped the penalty and eventually number eight Max Deegan went over for a try that Ross Byrne converted.

It was one-way traffic and the 14-man Dragons needed to dig deep, something they did to escape when the visitors opted for a cross-kick from a penalty in the 22.

The defence scrambled and fly-half Byrne bizarrely went for grubber that went dead.

The Dragons were then reduced to 13 men when full-back Josh Lewis, who had put in a hefty clearance, was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on of Leinster’s counter-attack.

The hosts survived the spell with a two-man numerical disadvantage and somehow were still only 7-0 down by the time Lewis returned.

Leinster were completely dominant but thankfully were not at their clinical best in the 22.

The Dragons had their first attack of note after half an hour with fit-again Wales hooker Elliot Dee prominent but an encouraging move ended in disappointment when prop Aki Seiuli failed to hang on to the slippery ball.

That attack also saw flanker Griffiths, who was as influential as even, leave the field for a head injury assessment.

South Wales Argus:

The weather was undoubtedly a leveller and it was a relief that it remained a one-score game heading into the second half, which started in sunshine and without Griffiths.

The mistakes kept coming from Leinster and with the score at 7-0, you pondered whether the Irish side would go for goal if the opportunity presented itself.

Ryan rang the changes with prop Greg Bateman, scrum-half Rhodri Williams and lock Joe Maksymiw brought on to add energy after a draining backs-to-the-wall effort.

The Dragons’ tackling and discipline was superb, denying Leinster the chance to really put the squeeze on as the hour approached and then passed.

The disappointment was that their ball retention was not up to scratch but it remained a tight game in the final quarter, something that few had predicted.

The Dragons had enjoyed precious few attacking moments but were on the scoreboard in the 63rd minute when Leinster strayed offside and Sam Davies knocked over a penalty to make it 7-3.

It got better two minutes later when Rhodri Williams raced away from a poor Leinster lineout, a penalty was earned and Davies made it a one-point game.

Leinster thought they had their winner with four to go when Nick McCarthy went over under the posts but it was chalked off for a knock on after a lengthy TMO review.

The Dragons still had hope but couldn’t quite conjure one last piece of magic.

Dragons: J Lewis; J Holmes, J Dixon, A Owen, J Olowofela; S Davies, L Jones (R Williams 49); A Seiuli (G Bateman 46), E Dee (T Davies 58), M Doge (C Coleman 57), W Rowlands, B Carter (J Maksymiw 53), R Moriarty (captain), O Griffiths (T Basham 31), A Wainwright.
Scorers: penalties – S Davies (2)

Leinster scorers: try – M Deegan; conversion – R Byrne

Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Attendance: 5,043