THE Dragons suffered another hammering on the road in the United Rugby Championship after being overpowered 49-26 by Ulster – but it wasn’t a pointless trip to Belfast.

The Irish province ran in seven tries to be convincing winners, although the scoreboard didn’t reflect an improved defensive effort by the Rodney Parade club.

They headed into the game after being thrashed 40-7 by Glasgow at Scotstoun Stadium when the damage should have been far worse.

The Dragons needed a response and they gave one to get what might turn out to be a precious point in the bid to avoid URC bottom spot.

Hookers James Benjamin and Brodie Coghlan, his first for the club, and lock Matthew Screech went over and then the driving lineout, a potent weapon all night, earned a penalty try at the death.

It was a much, much more positive performance and provides something to build on for the run-in as they battle with the Sharks, Zebre Parma and the Scarlets to avoid propping up the table.

South Wales Argus: Taine Basham on the charge for the DragonsTaine Basham on the charge for the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Ulster opened the scoring in the fifth minute after fly-half Billy Burns put a grubber through for full-back Will Addison to cross down the right, a frustrating try after the Dragons had defended a maul well and then made their first-up tackles.

Scrum-half John Cooney converted from wide on the right for a 7-0 lead but the Dragons’ response was impressive.

They turned down a shot at goal in favour of going for the corner and held their nerve and shape to go over with a second surge, Benjamin dotting down for a try and fly-half Will Reed added the extras.

However, Ulster got their lead back after 18 minutes when they exploited an injury to Gloucester loanee Harry Taylor in the defensive line to go from their own half for a try by Mike Lowry, Cooney converting.

Taylor limped off with his Dragons career likely to be just 19 minutes long, his blow meaning the introduction of lock Barny Langton-Cryer with Sean Lonsdale shifting to the back row.

The penalties racked up and the visitors were pinned in their 22, resulting in lock Harry Sheridan powering over from close range approaching the half hour.

At 21-7, the Dragons needed to respond but instead they were defending close to their line again and Ulster had their bonus courtesy of Lowry’s second, albeit the final pass by Jude Postlethwaite looked forward.

South Wales Argus: Barny Langton-Cryer carries hard for the DragonsBarny Langton-Cryer carries hard for the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Flanagan’s men would have wanted a strong start to the second half but lock Matthew Screech knocked on the kick-off and then the penalties started to flow again.

Ulster hunted their fifth through a driving lineout but the Dragons held firm and then strong defence forced a knock on over the line by hooker Tom Stewart.

Basham won a breakdown penalty to earn another escape and the visitors got a chance to pose some questions with ball in hand.

They worked into the Ulster 22 with a penalty, put the pressure on with a maul and then Screech powered over from close range to reward a good bout of attacking play.

Reed had pulled the strings nicely but made a clanger from the tee to slam the conversion against the left post, meaning the score remained at 28-12 with 52 minutes gone.

The Dragons swiftly hunted a third try and almost got it after a superb Reed line break but wing Corey Baldwin was caught and then tried a miracle offload.

Ulster made them pay with a patient attack that ended in a fifth try down the left corner for blindside David McCann with Cooney once again converting expertly.

The Dragons still had a chance to push for a four-try bonus as the game entered the final quarter but were undone by some Irish skullduggery to deny another strong driving lineout – Sean Reffell coming up with an iffy turnover – and a wonky throw.

However, they stayed in the hosts’ 22 and eventually got their reward when hooker Brodie Coghlan drove over from close range with 15 minutes to get their bonus.

Ulster got their sixth with another well-crafted try for back rower Nick Timoney to power over down the left wing to give Cooney another tester that he banged over for a 42-19 lead.

Seven soon followed with a line break finished over by McCann after 75 minutes despite desperate scrambling but that didn’t really matter, the Dragons were still hunting a fourth.

They moved into Ulster territory in the 79th minute and then backs joined a driving lineout to earn a penalty try and a rare bonus on the road.

Ulster scorers: tries - Addison, Lowry (2), Sheridan, McCann (2), Timoney; conversions – Cooney (7).

Dragons: E Rosser; Westwood (Anderson 66), Hughes, Owen (Ackerman 48), Baldwin; Reed, Blacker (Bertranou 52); Martinez (Seiuli 52), Benjamin (Coghlan 58), Coleman (Yendle 52), Lonsdale, Screech, Lydiate, Taylor (Langton-Cryer 19, Nott 66), Basham.

Scorers: tries – Benjamin, Screech, Coghlan, penalty; conversions – Reed (2).