A WEEK is a long time in rugby after the Dragons went from the high of a win in Galway to the low of a 24-10 loss to the Stormers at Rodney Parade.

Dean Ryan’s men failed to cope with great expectations after their shock triumph at Connacht when becoming their South African visitors’ first scalp of the United Rugby Championship.

The Dragons led 10-9 at the break after a try by Josh Lewis and a pair of kicks by Sam Davies, with the Stormers closing the gap thanks to the boot of their fly-half Manie Libbok.

Just like against the Ospreys on opening weekend, the squeeze was put on the visitors in the second half.

Unlike in that derby, the Dragons didn’t concede a glut of points but the shift in momentum eventually told with a try by Leolin Zas before Libbok’s fourth penalty left the hosts playing for a draw.

Instead, a breakaway meant that the hosts failed to score a match point for the first time this season.

The Dragons headed into the game on the back of three pretty strong performances but failed to hit those heights against the confrontational Stormers, who were led out by Rodney Parade favourite Brok Harris.

They certainly weren’t bullied but lacked the accuracy and verve required to record back to back wins. Nor did it help that they got on the wrong side of fussy Italian official Gianluca Gnecchi.

Too many players were rated 6s and 7s, few hit 8s.

South Wales Argus: BLOW: Elliot Dee suffered a neck injuryBLOW: Elliot Dee suffered a neck injury

It was a tough night with the added blow of an injury to Elliot Dee, who went down after a scrum in the first half and received lengthy treatment before walking off stretching his neck.

It was a blow for the Dragons to lose such an influential figure and Wales could also feel the pain, with the 40-times capped front rower meant to be starting Test camp on Monday.

Meanwhile his teammates need to respond with one more fixture in the first URC block – the small matter of a derby at Cardiff, albeit both sides will be without their Test contingent.

The Dragons were forced to change the XV that they had named on Thursday lunchtime with full-back Jordan Williams ruled out after coming into contact with a coronavirus case while centre Jack Dixon was unavailable for personal reasons.

That led to Lewis and Adam Warren coming into the side, the latter making his first start in almost a year because of a groin injury.

Ryan also ditched his plan for a 6-2 split of forwards on the bench, bringing in centre/wing Jared Rosser for lock Joe Maksymiw.

The boss had warned that the Stormers combined South African grunt up front with lively and elusive backs and that was clear from the off.

However, it was an extremely scrappy start with tone set by the visitors knocking on the kick-off but the Dragons failing to make anything from a scrum in prime attacking position.

The Stormers opened their account after 15 minutes through the boot of fly-half Manie Libbok after a 50-22 by Warrick Gelant allowed them to push for a penalty in front of the posts.

The Dragons were taking on the visitors with some hard carrying but copping some ferocious blows in the process.

After one particularly brutal passage of play ended with a knock-on under pressure, the TMO alerted referee Gianluca Gnecchi to a high shot on Taine Basham that earned visiting skipper Salamaan Moerat a spell in the sin bin.

South Wales Argus:

The Dragons made the man advantage count when, after a lineout drive was strongly defended five metres out, Sam Davies dropped the ball onto his boot and weighted his kick perfectly for Lewis to score.

The conversion gave them a 7-3 lead after 22 minutes but they needed more against the 14 men and got another three points through their fly-half’s left boot.

The Dragons lost Dee towards the end of the first half and lost their seven-point lead when they failed to roll away and Libbok banged over his second penalty.

The Stormers finished the half on the front foot and a lively break down the wing by Edwill van der Merwe was followed by another penalty for their fly-half to make it 10-9 at the break.

The Dragons made a second change at the break with Rosser on for winger Jordan Olowofela and a scrappy half livened up with some fisticuffs after home scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou was jostled on the floor after a grubber through.

That bafflingly led to a Stormers penalty and they applied pressure on the 22 but the hosts held firm and Taine Basham released the pressure with a timely rip, although the Wales flanker was frustrated that his resulting counter-attack was ended when he bumped into Mr Gnecchi.

It was one-way traffic and the South Africans earned a scrum in the 22 with a superb kick, won a penalty from the scrum and another for offside after hammering away from close range.

The opted for successive five-metre scrums and the Dragons, who lost captain Ross Moriarty with blood coming from his nose, were under serious pressure.

It eventually told when a grubber through bounced up for lively wing Leolin Zas to put the Stormers into a well-deserved 14-10 lead with 15 minutes to go.

Libbok stretched that with another penalty before the Dragons were given a chance to push for a draw in the closing stages.

They made it to the 22 but instead a scrum was turned over and Zas hacked on then made the most of Lewis making a mess of fielding the ball.