THE Dragons suffered more Guinness PRO14 misery on the road after running out of steam in the altitude of Bloemfontein.

The Rodney Parade region led on the hour against the Cheetahs yet their hosts turned a 13-10 deficit into a 38-13 drubbing in a cruel last quarter.

The Dragons’ tackle count was more than double that of the South Africans and it came back to bite them with four quickfire tries against weary legs and frazzled heads.

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Yet it was the failure to make the most of a sin bin that will frustrate head coach Ceri Jones, whose charges stayed in the fight until it became a two-score game in the 74th minute.

The previous weekend the Dragons had ended their 42-game losing streak on the road in the PRO14 with a draw against the Southern Kings.

It looked possible that they could enjoy that winning feeling for the first time since Treviso in March, 2015 when fly-half Josh Lewis knocked over a penalty approaching the hour, punishing a scrum offence that had seen home prop Aranos Coetzee yellow-carded.

However, rather than the Dragons piling the pressure on the 14 men, the Cheetahs dominated possession and even outscored their guests in the 10-minute period.

After getting back in front there was only one winner as Jones' men endured a pointless trip to Free State Stadium that leaves then beneath the Kings at the bottom of Conference B going into final weekend.

Once again their was no shortage of effort from the Dragons – with flankers Aaron Wainwright and Taine Basham particularly impressive – but that was not enough to prevent the winless away streak stretching into next season.

Now they must rally for one last time to try and stun the play-off chasing Scarlets at Judgement Day.

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The Dragons were on the back foot from the off with play almost exclusively in their territory in the first quarter.

They got on the wrong side of Irish official Sean Gallagher with three breakdown offences inside five minutes, the last of which saw fly-half Tian Schoeman pop the ball between the sticks.

The Dragons were defending stoutly – just as well given their paucity of possession – and limited the damage to 3-0 approaching the quarter.

Fly-half Lewis had a chance to level with a long-range effort but pulled it and then the visitors, rather oddly, decided to boot a very kickable penalty to the corner.

It was a brave call, but ultimately a wrong one as the drive was defended well and a knock-on followed.

The clash wasn’t a classic with the whistle dominating, with the Dragons not repeating their mistake from Mr Murphy’s next long peep in their favour.

Lewis pointed for the posts after side entry by the Cheetahs and the fly-half struck it well from 40 metres to level up after 29 minutes.

The Dragons were back under the pump straight from the restart when scrum-half Rhodri Williams took his eye off the ball to knock on five metres out.

However, teenage flanker Basham got his more experienced teammate off the hook with a superb jackal close to his line.

It was an extremely scrappy affair with both sides totting up errors at an alarming rate but it was the hosts that struck for a half-time lead.

The Cheetahs also adopted a policy of going for the corner from penalties and it eventually paid off in the 40th minute when number eight Henco Venter broke through the middle of a driving maul to power over for a try that Schoeman converted.

At 10-3 down a fast start was essential for the Dragons and they achieved that to level up just five minutes after the resumption.

They hammered away in the 22 after a move sparked by Lewis’ neat kick-pass to former Springbok Zane Kirchner down the right.

An offside was followed by a quick tap and a close-range charge over the line by Basham with Lewis adding the extras.

The Dragons were thankful for a touch of white line fever that resulted in flanker Jasper Wiese knocking on when reaching for the line with half an hour left.

They made the most of that escape to go in front for the first time in the 58th minute through the boot of Josh Lewis, who punished a scrum offence that also saw replacement loosehead Aranos Coetzee head for the sin bin.

However, it was a short-lived lead against the 14 men with the Cheetahs kicking a breakdown penalty into the 22.

Rather than the heavy units powering over it was scrum-half Shaun Venter who dummied and then darted between prop Lloyd Fairbrother and Lewis for a try that Schoeman converted.

It stayed at 17-13 going into the closing stages with the Dragons unable to build any pressure inside their hosts’ half.

And the killer blow came in the 74th minute when another penalty was kicked to the 22 and Schoeman jinked past a weary defence before converting his own score for a 24-13 lead.

The Cheetahs weren’t content with just victory and added a bonus point when replacement back Louis Fouche danced over, Schoeman maintaining his perfect evening from the tee.

It got worse when captain Elliot Dee, going for an understandable miracle pass inside his own 22, was picked off by Rabs Maxwane for a fifth score and a rather cruel 38-13 scoreline.

Cheetahs: M Jaer, T Meyer (captain), B Janse van Rensburg, D Swanepoel, R Maxwane, T Schoeman, S Venter, C Marais, J Dweba, L de Bruin, W Steenkamp, JP du Preez, G Olivier, A Nonkontwana, H Venter. Replacements: M van der Merwe, A Coetzee, R Venter, S Manjezi, J Wiese, R Paige, L Fouche, D Adonis

Scorers: tries – H Venter, S Venter, T Schoeman, L Fouche, R Maxwane; conversions – T Schoeman (5); penalty – T Schoeman

Dragons: J Williams, Z Kirchner (W Talbot-Davies), A Warren, J Dixon, H Amos, J Lewis (J Tovey), R Williams (T Knoyle 50), R Bevington (B Harris 50), E Dee (captain), L Brown (L Fairbrother 50), M Screech, L Evans (M Williams 68), A Wainwright, T Basham (H Taylor 68), R Moriarty.

Scorers: try – T Basham; conversion – J Lewis; penalties – J Lewis (2)

Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)

Argus star man: Aaron Wainwright