WALES boss Warren Gatland hailed the performances of Dragons duo Matthew Screech and Ben Carter as a “real positive” after they locked horns with a pair of South Africa legends.

The Rodney Parade locks went up against double World Cup winners Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert in Saturday’s 41-13 defeat to the Springboks at Twickenham.

The South Africans boasted a combined tally of 192 caps and are undeniably world class while stalwart Screech, 31, was making his first Test start and 23-year-old Carter made his 13th international appearance.

The duel had many fearing the worst but the Dragons pair - who got a shot in the absence of Will Rowlands, Dafydd Jenkins, Adam Beard, Rhys Davies, Cory Hill and Seb Davies - didn’t take a step back and could reflect on a strong afternoon’s work in London.

ACTION: Matthew Screech (left) and Ben Carter (right) help Gareth Thomas on a carryACTION: Matthew Screech (left) and Ben Carter (right) help Gareth Thomas on a carry (Image: PA)

"I thought they did really well. I thought Ben Carter put himself around the place physically and put in a couple of good tackles,” said head coach Gatland.

"I thought they both acquitted themselves really well. It was a massive challenge for them and a big step up for those two.

"I thought they acquitted themselves in terms of going out there and giving everything that they had which is a real positive from our point of view."

Wales’ list of absentees – players either injured, unavailable or rested – ran comfortably into double figures and they were widely expected to suffer a crushing defeat.

But they trailed only 14-13 at half-time following a try for hooker Dewi Lake, with fly-half Sam Costelow adding two penalties and a conversion.

Lake, co-captain at the World Cup and back after missing the Six Nations through injury, earned the praise of his boss.

“He was outstanding,” Gatland said. “I thought he was exceptional in terms of the way he played and led the team.

“I thought he showed what he is capable of doing, and I would like to think he is only going to get better as a player and a leader as well.

“There were lots of positives. I thought we did a lot of good things.

“There are things for us to work on in terms of staying in the moment and making sure we are switched on all the time.

“We were under the pump a bit early on with those two yellow cards, but we managed our way through that and I thought going in at 14-13 was pretty positive.”

For Wales, it was a seventh successive Test defeat since beating World Cup opponents Georgia, and they now face Australia in Sydney on July 6 and Melbourne seven days later.

Gatland added: “I understand how important results are, so I am quite happy for that pressure to be on me, not on the players.

“If you focus too much on the result then sometimes it can be added external pressure, rather than for us wanting players to get better as individuals and get better at playing at this level, the intensity and making better decisions.

“Our focus at the World Cup was to become a really hard team to beat, and the results will take care of themselves.”