THE Dragons not only suffered a 33-10 defeat to Leinster in the United Rugby Championship but are set to lose Wales back rower Aaron Wainwright and Taine Basham for a derby date.

The Rodney Parade club predictably failed to end their winless start to the campaign against the Irish heavyweights and the defeat will hit their hopes of beating the Ospreys on Saturday.

Wainwright went off for a head injury assessment early in the second half and failed to return to the field and then Basham had a moment of petulance.

The flanker caught Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne in the head with his elbow, a glancing cheap shot that led to a red card and a probable suspension.

There was relief that he wasn’t followed by lock Matthew Screech, who saw yellow for a high tackle, but the game was over long before the cards.

The first half was tight yet Leinster earned a healthy 14-3 lead courtesy of two close-range scores from front rowers, hooker Dan Sheehan from a five-metre lineout and tighthead Thomas Clarkson from a cunning tap move just before the whistle.

They added another seven points inside a minute through full-back Ciaran Frawley but the Dragons responded in kind courtesy of centre Aneurin Owen’s score from a Rhodri Williams grubber.

Leinster bagged the bonus through centre Charlie Ngatai and then Basham and Screech headed for the sidelines before Scott Penny’s try with the clock in the red.

South Wales Argus: RETURN: Wales hooker Elliot Dee carries hard for the Dragons against Leinster 17435349RETURN: Wales hooker Elliot Dee carries hard for the Dragons against Leinster 17435349 (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

It was a professional job by the Irish province, who were always on top thanks to their scrum dominance.

Despite the scoreline, the performance was better than against Cardiff, but it could hardly be worse.

The cold stats are that it’s over a year since the last Rodney Parade win against Zebre last October and there is little time to lick wounds with the Ospreys heading to Newport on Saturday.

Flanagan felt his side didn’t cope with the pressure against Cardiff that built up due to the mammoth losing streak against the Arms Park side, but this feels like yet another ‘must-win’ that is followed by a South Africa double-header.

The Dragons needed a stirring performance after the meek display in the derby defeat to Cardiff and they were boosted by the five-strong Wales World Cup contingent of hooker Elliot Dee, wing Rio Dyer and the back row of Dan Lydiate, Taine Basham and Wainwright.

They also profited from full-back Cai Evans and tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother being back from playing for Wales against the Barbarians.

South Wales Argus: RAPID: Dragons and Wales wing Rio Dyer looks for a gap against LeinsterRAPID: Dragons and Wales wing Rio Dyer looks for a gap against Leinster (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The were two clangers in the opening exchanges with kickers putting penalties dead but Leinster got away with their one.

They forced a penalty from the resulting scrum, kicked to the corner, won another penalty and then drove over for captain and hooker Sheehan to score a ninth-minute try that Ross Byrne converted.

The Dragons responded with a Cai Evans penalty and went close when Jared Rosser raced after a Aneurin Owen kick through but was just beaten to it in the dead-ball area by covering full-back Ciaran Frawley.

After being so flat against Cardiff, Flanagan’s side stayed in the contest by scrapping for everything and working hard to prevent Leinster working through the phases.

However, the Irish province struck just before the break when scrum-half Ben Murphy went close from a quick tap.

He was stopped by an excellent cover tackle by lock George Nott but Leinster were awarded a scrum, won a penalty then struck with a training ground move.

They shifted the attacking point with a late switch for number eight James Culhane to put tighthead Clarkson over with a neat sleight of hand.

Byrne converted for a 14-3 lead at the break and it was looking an uphill task for the Dragons.

It was pretty much game over just 56 seconds after the restart when Dyer spilt the ball inside the Irish side’s half and a rapid counter ended with a neat one-two between Frawley and Sheehan down the right.

South Wales Argus: CLOSE: Will Reed was tap-tackled on the break for the Dragons against LeinsterCLOSE: Will Reed was tap-tackled on the break for the Dragons against Leinster (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The full-back scored out wide but that made no difference to Byrne, who expertly split the posts to make it 21-3.

The Dragons responded well and struck in the 50th minute when, playing with penalty advantage, scrum-half Rhodri Williams grubbered through for Owen to finish smartly on the slide.

Wainwright went off for an HIA before Evans converted to make it 21-10 but Leinster went on the hunt for a clincher.

The pressure eventually led to the classy bonus score just past the hour with neat handling by replacement Rob Russell to put over Ngatai from a cross kick.

Then came Basham’s moment of madness that meant the Dragons had to play the last 13 minutes down to 14 men, then 13 for a spell when Screech caught Frawley with a high shot.

Thankfully the horrendous conditions helped ensure it didn’t turn into a battering and the game drifted to the final whistle.

However, Leinster showed a killer instinct with the clock in the red when kicking to the corner for Penny to twist the knife.

Dragons: C Evans; Dyer, S Hughes (captain, Dixon 75), Owen, J Rosser (E Rosser 42); Reed, R Williams (D Blacker 64); R Jones (Seiuli 63), Dee (Benjamin 63), Fairbrother (Yendle 63), Screech, Nott, Lydiate (Lonsdale 67), Basham, Wainwright (Woodman 49).

Scorers: try – Owen; conversion – Evans; penalty – Evans.

Leinster scorers: tries – D Sheehan, T Clarkson, C Frawley, C Ngatai, S Penny; conversions – R Byrne (4).

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy).

Attendance: 4,555.