THE Dragons return to the scene of a memorable, if soggy, success on Friday afternoon.

Three years ago Lyn Jones' side struck late against Northampton to enjoy a fine 27-25 pre-season success against the English champions at a rain-lashed Eugene Cross Park.

The victory against a powerful European heavyweight, who boasted the likes of Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Samu Manoa and George North in their side at Ebbw Vale, boosted the morale ahead of the campaign.

Alas, that pre-season optimism was popped by narrow losses to Connacht and the Ospreys, a home hammering by Glasgow and deflating defeats to the Scarlets and Edinburgh. The Dragons won just one of their opening six.

Friendlies can be futile exercises in a contact sport like rugby and it is certainly dangerous to read too much into scorelines.

Just as well for the Dragons after a daunting, some would say ridiculous, summer schedule that features a quartet of European Champions Cup sides in Montpellier, Northampton, Exeter and Glasgow.

The tally stands at 161-60 with just the Warriors game to go, giving ammunition to those that just want the Rodney Parade side to fail.

The truth is that it was always going to be a struggle against sides boasting far more expensive and deep squads but the Dragons should be better for the experience and at the very least have a good yardstick.

In 2013, when they enjoyed a solitary friendly against Bath, there were a few grumbles about being rusty but this time they should certainly be battle-hardened.

Pre-season games are all about the small details where analysts Will Precious and Owen Griffiths earn their corn, helping identify the minutiae that should help give the best chance of success when it really matters against Leinster a week on Saturday.

Head coach Bernard Jackman and his bolstered management team won't be watching games in the same manner as you and I; it's not about the obvious such as fast feet by Hallam Amos and Ashton Hewitt, a jackal by Nic Cudd or big carry by Harri Keddie.

It's about the transfer of the workings from the training paddock at Ystrad Mynach onto the field in preparation for the Guinness PRO14 opener.

No side will have shown their hand in August, nor are games a true reflection of encounters when there are four or five points at stake.

The win against Northampton was memorable for the Dragons but precious few Saints fans will have any recollections of it and the victory in the torrential Ebbw rain wasn't the most important part of the evening.

Influential centre Pat Leach, an unsung Dragons hero and a hugely popular member of the squad, suffered what would turn out to be a career-ending knee injury when his leg got trapped at a ruck in the first half.

Offer Jackman a victory against Glasgow or a clean bill of health and there is little doubt he'd go for the latter.

The summer of change means there is real optimism about what lies ahead at Rodney Parade and the fixture list certainly present a good chance of making a solid start with Leinster, Connacht and the Southern Kings heading to Newport in the first block.

That feel-good factor won't be ended in August and the really important thing is that it remains in place heading into 2018 thanks to a few green shoots of recovery.

EUGENE Cross Park is a ground I am fond of after it featured prominently in my first season at the Argus (who deals in years?!).

The Steelmen had a terrific 2006/7 campaign under Alex Codling, who had turned them from Principality Premiership relegation candidates to title contenders.

Ebbw Vale ended up finishing second behind Neath, just two points back on the then standard bearers for the semi-professional game, and were thrilled to edge ahead of third-placed Newport on final day.

The season was a great introduction to rugby in the area after moving down from Leicester and Eugene Cross Park is a wonderful rugby venue… yet it also now serves as a reality check for those that want the Dragons to frequently go on their travels rather than have a schedule dominated by their new-look Rodney Parade.

On Friday afternoon the region return to Ebbw and hopefully the free friendly against Glasgow will provide a few thrills for what will be a youthful crowd.

However, it's also one of the many grounds that is now frequented by youngsters once night descends, presenting the council with problems of graffiti and those who just love to burn. It's exasperating for those volunteers that put so much time into making their home homely.

It's not easy developing and maintaining a ground fit for the needs of professional rugby – evidence for that comes from Rodney Parade looking tired in parts – and tomorrow will necessitate the Dragons and Glasgow roughing it to some extent.

The same was the case when Caerphilly hosted the derby against Cardiff Blues at the end of last season; the work put in by the host club was terrific but it still was making the best of a bad situation caused by a fixture clash with Newport County.

It was a logistical nightmare and one that hit the Dragons in the pocket. The Welsh Rugby Union is pumping money into Rodney Parade and they would be daft not to make the most out of their recently-acquired asset.

The Dragons have pledged to go on the road once in the coming campaign but calls to do it more frequently are based on romantic ideals rather than pragmatism and financial sense.

As a one-off, great. As a regular thing, not so.