A PROBLEM with the current broadcasting arrangement in the United Rugby Championship is that everything is revealed.

It used to be the case that a poor Dragons display in Galway, Glasgow or Cork could go under the radar.

Now, as last Saturday showed, there is no such luck.

The Dragons have been reasonable on home soil this season with wins against the Ospreys, Oyonnax, the Scarlets and Zebre plus opportunities missed against Edinburgh and Cardiff.

They have been awful on the road with a pair of narrow but poor defeats in the Challenge Cup and seven hammerings in the URC.

On the face of it, last weekend’s 36-19 defeat at Benetton wasn’t a complete disaster, especially since it was 24-12 with 70 minutes on the clock.

In reality, just like February’s 40-7 thrashing by Glasgow, the scoreline flattered the Dragons.

Benetton bombed chances galore and the visitors lacked desire, urgency and fight, especially in the first half.

The tone was set early on when the Italians worked a move for Rhyno Smith to go over down the left, with a tricky touchline conversion to come… only for covering centre Sio Tomkinson to start to canter.

Suddenly, the full-back was able to run under the posts to make it a simple seven-pointer.

That might seem to be a trivial point on an afternoon when the Dragons shipped six tries but it’s indicative of how hard they want to make it for the opposition.

Then there was the sight of scrum-half Dane Blacker seemingly showing a lack of hunger for claiming a dink over the top and centre Aneurin Owen bizarrely throwing a blind flick that was picked off by Andy Uren for try number three.

Contrast that to the previous night when Thomas Young was denied in the corner for Cardiff by Ulster’s Cormac Izuchukwu.

Granted, it should have been a penalty try for kicking the ball out of the Wales flanker’s hands but it showed desire and commitment when it seemed to be a lost cause.

The Blue and Blacks controversially lost to the Irish province and remain on three wins for the campaign in all competitions.

The Dragons have won four but the moods surrounding the clubs contrast starkly – the feeling is that Cardiff, who have nine losing bonuses, are building.

Matt Sherratt’s side are spirited, tenacious and optimistic; they are a club who know what they are and are tapping into a rich history.

The Dragons, who were taken over last summer after being owned by the WRU since 2017, must be doing something right to convince Wales internationals Aaron Wainwright, Rio Dyer and Taine Basham to stay.

New signings are set to be announced in the coming weeks to provide some hope – Flanagan told the Argus last week he hopes for “up to seven” new boys – after a tough campaign in which they opted to get some financial pain out of the way, slashing costs and taking some hits with the intention of investing next season.

South Wales Argus: DEFLATED: The Dragons after their defeat to BenettonDEFLATED: The Dragons after their defeat to Benetton (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Yet there can’t be yet another run-in of the Rodney Parade club saying ‘but next season…’ while finishing as Wales’ worst.

Boss Dai Flanagan’s biggest win from his time in charge is still from his very first game in charge in September 2022 when Munster were stunned in Newport.

He will be leading a new-look management team next season but can’t allow 2023/24 to drift to an ending given that they are at risk of propping up the league for the first time.

The Dragons need four performances out of four with Connacht at Rodney Parade on Saturday, followed by the Stormers, the Ospreys in Swansea and then the Cardiff City Stadium Judgement Day meeting with the Scarlets.

The majority of the 23 that took to the field in Treviso will be on the books next season and they have to show much more, if given a shot at redemption in Wales.

The Dragons must give their long-suffering supporters a glimpse of what is to come in 2024/25 and not just canter to the end of the season.

This is a character test.