The Dragons fell agonisingly short of victory over Leinster despite an incredible defensive performance at Rodney Parade.
Despite having lost their last 11 matches to the Irish giants and been reduced to 13 men at one point in the first-half, two second-half penalties from Sam Davies put them within touching distance of a exceptional victory.
Dean Ryan will be pleased with how the Dragons managed the match – having spoken about his disappointment at a poor third quarter against the Ospreys last weekend.
There was no poor quarter this time, with the Dragons doing their best off limited possession and territory thanks in part to a smart exit game and a series of gut-busting defensive sets.
However, it wasn’t to be as the Dragons couldn’t quite find the finishing touch against an out-of-sorts Leinster side.
The last time the Dragons had beaten Leinster, there were just 12 teams in the league and the Rodney Parade outfit nevertheless had the Newport Gwent prefix.
That was 2016, when tries from Ashton Hewitt and Jason Tovey sealed a 23-13 win over the Irish heavyweights.
But by the break, a repeat performance didn’t seem a million miles away – as they trailed just 7-0.
It had been a first 40 minutes of for a long time many storms for the Dragons, with two yellow cards in quick series putting them down to 13 men at one point.
First, Lewis Jones was sent to the sin-bin after failing to roll away from the tackle near his own line.
Leinster wasted little time in taking advantage, with Max Deegan forcing his way by a gap to crash over moments later.
There was always the worry that Deegan’s score would cause the floodgates to open, especially when Dean Ryan’s side were reduced already further numerically as Josh Lewis was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on when Leinster threatened to counter from thorough.
However, Leinster’s first-half offering started and finished with Deegan’s seven-pointer. slightly because of some sloppy red-zone play from the province, but also because of substantial defensive work from the Dragons.
As for their own attacking prospects, there was little to write home about. A associate of trips to the 22 came to nothing, but had their lineout been a little less creaky, those visits might have been more frequent.
The same could be said for much of the second-half.
Leinster tried their best to pull away after the break, but their errors continued to be met with spirited, relentless defence from the Dragons.
However, a malfunctioning lineout and an inability to increase their possession and territory percentages meant the scoreline stayed idle until the hour mark.
And then, where the Dragons maybe could – and arguably should – have wilted after the hour-long defensive shift, instead they grew stronger.
Sam Davies put them on the scoreboard on 63 minutes with a simple penalty as Leinster strayed offside under pressure.
The momentum seemed to truly be shifting when Davies additional another penalty a associate of minutes later – making it a one-point game as we approached the final ten minutes.
Leinster thought they had sealed it when Nick McCarthy squeezed over, but the TMO’s replays showed the ball had been spilled forward by an Irish hand in the build-up.
However, the Dragons couldn’t muster up a match-winning opportunity of their own – falling short just as the sunny skies in Newport turned to rain.
Pens: S. Davies (2)
Tries: M. Deegan; Cons: R. Byrne
Dragons : Josh Lewis; Jonah Holmes, Jack Dixon, Aneurin Owen, Jordan Olowofela; Sam Davies, Lewis Jones; Aki Seiuli, Elliot Dee, Mesake Doge, Ben Carter, Will Rowlands, Ross Moriarty (c), Ollie Griffiths, Aaron Wainwright
Replacements : Taylor Davies, Greg Bateman, Chris Coleman, Joe Maksymiw, Taine Basham, Rhodri Williams, Adam Warren, Ioan Davies.
Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Rob Russell, Garry Ringrose, Conor O’Brien, Rory O’Loughlin; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, James Ryan (c), Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Cian Healy, Ryan Baird, Dan Leavy, Nick McCarthy, Ciarán Frawley, Scott Penny
Referee: AJ Jacobs (SARU)
See how the action unfolded below:
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