NEWPORT Gwent Dragons enjoyed victory in their first hit-out of 2014/15 after running four tries past Bristol in a 34-19 success at Clifton.
In perfect weather on a cracking surface it was an extremely useful workout for Lyn Jones' men in the countdown to their Guinness Pro12 opener against Connacht in Galway.
The Dragons made the short trip over the border with a massive squad and 35 players benefitted from getting some game time.
Results don't matter in pre-season but victory is certainly preferable to defeat and the Rodney Parade region will see more positives than negatives when they dissect their performance at their Ystrad Mynach training base.
Bristol, who are preparing for a mouth-watering Championship opener against fellow promotion hopefuls Worcester, had some pretty formidable players in the grandstand with Nicky Robinson, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones and Anthony Perenise all among the punters.
And those that took to the field were certainly no mugs; they got stuck into the Dragons with an aggressive defence, although they appeared to share their boss Andy Robinson's lack of regard for the offside line.
It was pretty bruising from the first whistle with centre Jack Dixon clattered when going up for the kick-off and number eight Andy Powell left to nurse a sore knee after a typically uncompromising carry.
The Dragons were sharper out of the blocks and eased into a 10-0 lead after eight minutes with fly-half Jason Tovey booting an early penalty and then converting his own try after gliding over from 10 metres.
As is to be expected of a first hit-out, the game was slightly frantic at times with play littered with little inaccuracies and miscommunication.
It was all about getting a first taste of proper contact, although Tovey probably didn't expect to be on the receiving end of a Lee Byrne, the fly-half paying the price of not being on his new skipper's wavelength.
Bristol had a quartet of good chances – captain Dwayne Peel knocking on when clear 25 metres out, former Cardiff Met student Mark Cooke dropping the ball thanks to Aled Brew's tackle on the line, flanker Marco Mama smashed inches short and wing Ryan Edwards bundled into touch in the corner – but the Dragons held firm.
Referee Simon Harding was pinging the visitors for plenty of offences and the hosts were on the scoreboard just past the half hour when he marched under the sticks after deeming a driving maul had been stopped illegally just shy of the line.
Veteran fly-half Adrian Jarvis added the extras but the Dragons regained their 10-point advantage before the break when, after a strong charge by Powell and a snipe by scrum-half Jonathan Evans, South African lock Rynard Landman reached over the whitewash.
And they headed into their changing room with a 20-7 lead courtesy of another Tovey penalty with the last kick, although the three points came after fly-half butchered a chance that would have seen him on the receiving end of a Jones rollocking in a Pro12 game.
The Dragons made 13 changes for the second half – centres Jack Dixon and Pat Leach the sole survivors – but the new pack still had no answer to the driving lineout.
Irish prop Jack O'Connell was the man to profit from a terrific heave by the Bristol pack but the visitors responded with a super, length-of-the-field score.
Dorian Jones appeared to be pinned back close to his own line but reaped the rewards from having an intent to play with lock Cory Hill finishing the swift counter-attack strongly in the corner from Leach's pass after he had won the race to midfield partner Dixon's chip.
Rhys Jones converted but the hosts responded swiftly against a worryingly leaky defence, centre Luke Eves powering over from a set move off a scrum to make it 27-19 approaching the hour.
There were a few nervy moments but the victory was assured when a super pass by replacement fly-half Angus O'Brien allowed loosehead Owen Evans to gallop over under the sticks.
Bristol: D Hudson, R Edwards, L Eves, M Cooke, C Amesbury, A Jarvis, D Peel (captain), J O'Connell, M Crumpton, J Hall, B Glynn, G Townson, M Mama, R Rennie, B Skirving. Replacements: R Lawrence, B Leung, E Genge, J Joyce, O Robinson, C Hampson, L Baldwin, C Sheedy, L Slowik, J Wallace.
Scorers: tries – penalty, J O'Connell, L Eves; conversions – A Jarvis (2)
Dragons first half: L Byrne (captain), A Hewitt, P Leach, J Dixon, A Brew, J Tovey, J Evans, B Stankovich, E Dee, L Fairbrother, M Screech, R Landman, A Coombs, N Cudd, A Powell.
Dragons second half: R Jones, T Prydie, P Leach (B Nightingale 56), J Dixon (A O'Brien 56), M Pewtner, D Jones, R Rees (C Edwards 73), O Evans (L Garrett 78), R Thomas (R Buckley 72), D Way (D Young 75), I Gough (S Andrews 74), C Hill, J Thomas, L Evans, S Matthews.
Scorers: tries – J Tovey, R Landman, C Hill, O Evans; conversions – J Tovey (2), R Jones (2); penalties – J Tovey (2)
Referee: Simon Harding (RFU)