THE Dragons gave the Stormers a scare but once again suffered agony in the last quarter after a 44-21 defeat at Rodney Parade.

The South Africans headed to Newport needing a win in their bid for the United Rugby Championship play-offs and got the job done with a bonus-point triumph.

However, the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story – the Dragons, as they often have on home soil this season despite their win ratio, went toe-to-toe with a heavyweight and led until the 65th minute.

Dai Flanagan’s men were the better side in the first half – they had 72 per cent possession and 77 per cent territory – but had to settle for a one-point lead after a try by flanker Harri Keddie and six points from the boot of fly-half Will Reed.

The Stormers offered little but struck in the closing stages to make it 11-10 courtesy of a clinical try by wing Angelo Davids, set up by Springbok Warrick Gelant.

The Dragons, who were denied a second try by Steff Hughes by a marginal call for getting up when tackled, knew that they were in for a tougher task after the restart yet they led entering the final quarter thanks to Wales star Aaron Wainwright’s close-range finish.

However, Davids went over for a second and was followed over by number eight Evan Roos and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2).

Just like the Sharks and the Bulls earlier in the campaign, South African power told in the closing stages.

The Dragons – with Wainwright, Keddie and loosehead Rhodri Jones immense – had matched them for much of the game but they need to find a way of finishing the job in 2024/25.

South Wales Argus: POWER: The Stormers stretched clear against the DragonsPOWER: The Stormers stretched clear against the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

They started with intent and a chip to the corner by Dane Blacker, then a wonky lineout gave them a big attacking chance in the second minute but their drive was held up over the line.

The encouraging start continued with Wainwright charging for the line from quick lineout ball, followed by his fellow forwards from close range.

The Stormers infringed and Will Reed made it 3-0 in the eighth minute, and shortly afterwards the fly-half kicked to the corner after a scrum penalty.

Hooker Elliot Dee went close after a training ground move at the front, then flanker Keddie powered over from the pick-and-go.

Reed failed from the tee but 8-0 in the 16th minute was still good reward for a fine start.

The Dragons were put under the pump when Blacker was too slow clearing the ball from the restart, leading to a scrum and then a penalty that was kicked to the corner, but Sean Lonsdale came up with a precious steal from the lineout.

They made the most of that escape to go on the attack after a scrum penalty and a cracker of a kick to the 22 by Reed.

Captain Hughes went over while playing with advantage, but only after getting off the floor following a tackle.

Live it looked the right call by referee Chris Busby but footage showed it was a tight one, although the Irish official had already whistled by the time the centre went over so it couldn’t go to TMO.

The Dragons, after kicking to the corner once, then settled for making it 11-0 with 26 minutes gone.

The Stormers got on the scoreboard after half an hour through the right boot of World Cup winner Manie Libbok then struck with their first real chance in the 35th minute.

Reed dropped a bomb and the South Africans countered with Warrick Gelant breaking through midfield and then kicking ahead for Angelo Davids to cross.

Libbock converted and, somewhat harshly, the Dragons were only a point ahead.

South Wales Argus: BATTLE: Rio Dyer in defence for the Dragons against the StormersBATTLE: Rio Dyer in defence for the Dragons against the Stormers (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The Stormers looked a different side in the opening exchanges of the second half, carrying with power and intent.

They inched in front for the first time through the boot of Libbok in the 48th minute after a penalty won by their scrum that now featured Dragons legend Brok Harris at loosehead.

However, the response was immediate from Reed to make it 14-13 courtesy of an offside and an upset was still possible approaching the hour.

The Dragons had a lucky escape in the 56th minute when the Stormers broke away after a handling error in midfield only for a Libbok try to be chalked off for a knock-on by Davids.

Alas, the resulting scrum did allow the visitors to inch back in front from the tee.

Back came the Dragons and after a desperate tackle denied Rio Dyer from freshly-introduced Angus O’Brien’s peach of a pass, Wainwright powered over.

O’Brien converted for a 21-16 lead on the hour.

Back came the Stormers with their power game – they got over the gain line in the 22 before Davids went over for his second down the left.

Libbok converted from the touchline to regain the lead, with the Dragons’ task then hit by O’Brien limping off to be replaced by debutant Morgan Lloyd.

That meant a back line rejig with Hughes at 10 and they finished the game with 14 men courtesy of a yellow card for loosehead Rodrigo Martinez.

The killer blow came when number eight Roos barged over from a driving lineout then Feinberg-Mngomezulu got the bonus, and twisted the knife in the last minute.

Dragons: J Williams, Dyer, Hughes (captain), Owen, Hollis (Tomkinson 57); Reed (O’Brien 57, Lloyd 70), Blacker; R Jones (Martinez 49), Dee (Coghlan 57), Coleman (Arhip 49), Screech, Nott, Lonsdale, Keddie (Basham 54), Wainwright.

Scorers: tries – Keddie, Wainwright; conversion – O’Brien; penalties – Reed (3).

Stormers scorers: tries – Davids (2), Roos, Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2); conversions – Libbok (5); penalties – Libbok (3).

Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland).

Attendance: 5,121.