THE Dragons’ miserable streak against Cardiff was stretched to 16 defeats after a 16-9 loss in a woeful United Rugby Championship derby in Newport.

The Rodney Parade club produced a flat, error-strewn performance that gave precious little to get the crowd excited on a deflating Sunday afternoon.

Cardiff certainly weren’t great but they didn’t need to be when extending a run against their nearest rivals that goes back to the 2015 European Challenge Cup quarter-final.

The Dragons trailed 13-6 after a first half woefully lacking in quality with the solitary try a Mason Grady effort for the visitors after a charge down.

Dai Flanagan’s men lost three men to injury before the break – loosehead Rodrigo Martinez, flanker Sean Lonsdale and number eight Harri Keddie – and that led to them having a makeshift, imbalanced back row.

They were chasing the game but, after wing Jared Rosser missed a glorious early chance, never built up a head of steam.

It leaves them two defeats from two in the URC with a trip to Munster next Saturday followed by an equally daunting home encounter with Leinster.

Hopes of a rapid start to the campaign with games on home soil have gone up in smoke – the Dragons have only claimed two losing bonuses.

South Wales Argus: CHALLENGE: Jared Rosser goes up in the air for the Dragons against CardiffCHALLENGE: Jared Rosser goes up in the air for the Dragons against Cardiff (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

They suffered a pre-match blow when Wales back rower Dan Lydiate, fresh back from World Cup duty and poised for his first appearance in a decade for the club where he came through, withdrew for personal reasons.

That meant George Nott joined fellow lock/flanker Lonsdale and Keddie in a back row that lacked dynamism.

The Dragons were without Lydiate, the injured Ollie Griffiths and George Young, World Cup stars Aaron Wainwright and Taine Basham plus Ryan Woodman, who was given an extended break after his summer World Rugby U20 Championship exertions.

That forced them to use flanker-turned-hooker James Benjamin as back row cover with Brodie Coghlan coming onto the bench.

Cardiff were also forced into a late change but the return of openside Thomas Young for the injured Alex Mann only added to their breakdown threat.

With the rain hammering down, it quickly became a battle of the boot with the Dragons kicking four times in the opening 90 seconds and the visitors combatting line speed with chips over the top.

Fly-halves Angus O’Brien and Tinus De Beer traded breakdown penalties either side of the Dragons being forced into a change with Rhodri Jones coming on for limping Argentina loosehead Martinez.

It wasn’t exactly a derby full of pulsating action and the Dragons suffered a double blow in the 19th minute when De Beer made it 6-3 and Lonsdale was forced off with a cut to be replaced by Benjamin.

South Wales Argus: CLOSE: The Dragons scramble in defence after a Cardiff breakawayCLOSE: The Dragons scramble in defence after a Cardiff breakaway (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Cardiff were close to extending their lead after a kick through by their South African fly-half was hacked on by Theo Cabango but the rapid winger couldn’t hang on to Grady’s return pass.

The Dragons suffered another blow before half an hour had been played when Keddie came off to be replaced by Joe Davies – their back row consisted of lock Ben Carter, hooker Benjamin and lock/blindside George Nott at number eight.

Their makeshift side was then playing catch-up after a shocker of a try for Cardiff.

Wing Jared Rosser gave them a lift by claiming an up and under but O’Brien’s attempted kick to space down the left was charged down by Tomos Williams and claimed by lock Teddy Williams, who passed to Grady to race over.

De Beer converted but O’Brien promptly cut the gap to 13-6 before half-time, that after a forward pass had denied Rosser a try.

The winger had a nightmare moment shortly after the restart when he missed a rugby equivalent of an open goal.

Dane Blacker grubber kicked through but Rosser was hesitant when attempting to pick up the ball before flopping over and knocked on under no pressure.

That summed up the start of the second half with quality low and errors high.

De Beer missed from the tee for the second time in the 56th minute but made no mistake on 66 after a late hit by Jones on Ellis Jenkins to make it a two-score game.

The Dragons brought on fly-half Will Reed with 10 minutes to go in a bid to spark something and there was hope of late drama when Wales tighthead Leon Brown hit a superb line then offloaded to Rhodri Williams but the attack fizzled out five metres out.

Play continued and Cardiff conceded a penalty that allowed O’Brien to slot a penalty to make it 16-9 with just over a minute to go.

A shot at a draw? Cardiff reclaimed the restart and chalked up another win.

Dragons: J Williams (Reed 70); J Rosser, Tomkinson (Dixon 66), Hughes (captain), Hewitt; O’Brien, Blacker (R Williams 55); Martinez (R Jones 10), Roberts, Fairbrother (Brown 59), Screech, Carter, Nott, Lonsdale (Benjamin 18), Keddie (J Davies 25).

Scorers: penalties – O’Brien (3).

Cardiff scorers: try – Grady; conversion – De Beer; penalties – De Beer (3).

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland).

Attendance: 5,272.