THE Dragons were condemned to a season without success at Rodney Parade after a painfully familiar defeat to the Lions.

Dean Ryan’s men went down 21-11 to the South Africans in the United Rugby Championship, their 10th loss on home soil with a solitary draw against Benetton.

The patched-up Dragons led 11-7 at the break thanks to wing Rio Dyer’s fast feet and the right boot of fly-half Will Reed.

However, the Lions stripped their game back for the second half and it paid off; once again the Rodney Parade side struggled against the power game.

The visitors, who had to fly to Europe for a dead rubber, scored two tries in a one-sided half to take the spoils in an encounter that won’t live long in the memory.

The Dragons were without Wales forwards Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Ben Carter, Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty plus key figures Ashton Hewitt, Jack Dixon, Aneurin Owen and Harri Keddie through injury.

There was no shortage of effort from their deputies – and six of them knew it was their last appearance for the club – but it was more evidence of the lack of depth.

Ryan is gambling for next season by stripping back his squad and going for quality rather than quantity, a risk that requires luck with injuries.

The Dragons had a flanker starting at lock and a fly-half/full-back in midfield, which didn’t help their flow in a game that had a very end of season feel.

South Wales Argus: LEGEND: Adam Warren in his final Dragons appearanceLEGEND: Adam Warren in his final Dragons appearance

There were some positives, most notably Ollie Griffiths being Ollie Griffiths, carrying with dynamism, relishing the collisions in defence and influencing the breakdown.

Wales may be blessed with back row options but a fit and firing Griffiths should be heading to South Africa this summer.

However, they didn’t have the personnel to shift the momentum in the second half and their wait for a home win – which goes back to April 2021 – will stretch into September/October and the new season.

The Dragons featured six players making their last appearances for the region – stalwart centre Adam Warren, who led the team out, Josh Lewis, Mesake Doge, Joe Maksymiw, Taylor Davies and Max Williams.

The futures of Huw Taylor, Jared Rosser and Aki Seiuli will be settled shortly with contract negotiations continuing.

The Dragons made a lively start, keen to shift the ball and avoid a slugfest, and after 10 minutes were both close to opening the scoring and conceding in the same attack.

Good handling saw wing Dyer burst into the 22 and the ball was recycled for Jordan Williams to fling a pass to the left that was picked off by Stean Pienaar.

Thankfully he is a winger without top-end speed and Jared Rosser got back to cut him off before he had even made it to the Dragons’ 22.

The Lions, whose scrum was causing mayhem, should have gone in front in the 19th minute but flew off their feet at the breakdown just five metres out with numbers waiting down the left.

They were soon made to pay for that error when the Dragons crossed for their first try, made by Maksymiw.

South Wales Argus: JOY: Rio Dyer finished smartly down the rightJOY: Rio Dyer finished smartly down the right

The giant lock got his hands up to intercept a pass just outside the Lions’ 22 and shipped the ball neatly on to Dyer, who finished smartly against some iffy defence to make it 5-0.

However, then a theme of the season did for the hosts – penalties pinned them close to their line and allowed the South Africans to use their power game.

They drove to within a yard and earned another penalty that led to a scrum; the Dragons held firm but the visitors came up with a slick backs move that ended with wing Edwill van der Merwe going over untouched.

Fly-half Jordan Hendrikse converted but Reed responded with a pair of penalties to earn a 11-7 lead at the break.

However, the Lions hit the front four minutes after the restart thanks to a direct approach in the 22 that ended with lock Ruan Venter charged over, Hendrikse adding the extras for 14-11.

The South Africans powered their way over for a third and a 21-11 lead in the 53rd minute, tighthead Ruan Venter the scorer from close range.

It was one-way traffic but the Dragons could, and should, have been back in it with 12 minutes to go.

Lewis was agonisingly close to a farewell try after picking off a pass on halfway but Quan Horn was rewarded for chasing a seemingly lost cause, the full-back’s pressure led to the Dragons centre losing his footing as the line approached and he knocked on when attempting to ground.

That was as close as they came to making it a tense finale as the Dragons suffered a fourth loss to South African opposition.

Dragons: J Williams (I Davies 63); Dyer, Warren, J Lewis, Rosser; Reed (S Davies 61), Bertranou (L Jones 53); Seiuli (Fairbrother 68), Dee (T Davies 68), Doge (Coleman 47), Maksymiw (M Williams 78), Taylor, Fry (Greggains 46), Basham, Griffiths (captain).
Scorers: try – Dyer; penalties – Reed (2) 

Lions scorers: tries – van der Merwe, Venter, Dreyer; conversions – Hendrikse (3)

Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)