THE Dragons suffered yet more pain in the Guinness PRO14 rain after Dean Ryan’s men were given a 38-14 schooling by Connacht at a sodden Rodney Parade.

The Irish province ran in five tries to ease to victory and ensure that the Ryan era started with a whimper on squelchy home soil.

The Dragons struck first through Wales centre Tyler Morgan but lost their way and ended up having to play catch-up in torrential rain. A comeback against well-drilled visitors never looked likely.

It was just (another) one of those nights for the Dragons, who had been hoping to back up the excellent win at Zebre that ended their embarrassing away hoodoo.

Instead it was a deflating evening that makes you appreciate the loyalty, and remarkable staying power, of those that head through the turnstiles season after season.

Free Press Series:

Ryan – who has warned against expecting overnight miracles from the moment he set foot in Rodney Parade – will stay true to his wise approach of not getting carried away after victory and not ripping everything apart after defeat.

But the director of rugby will have learnt a lot from the clash with Connacht, particularly the way that the Dragons responded to shifts in momentum, or rather their inability to respond to a loss of momentum.

Their set piece wobbled – poor Richard Hibbard had a rare night to forget – and they suffered when dragged into an arm-wrestle, a weakness that all PRO14 opponents will try to exploit.

In Parma the Dragons thrived when able to play high-tempo rugby but both Munster and Connacht have forced them into places they don’t want to be.

The Dragons need to find some wet weather tyres to go along with their slicks, because supporters that brave the Newport conditions will testify that dry nights are a rarity.

Just like in the drizzle of Limerick, so many trips into the 22 yielded no points and Dragons heads dropped before the hour, on and off the field, as it became clear who would be victorious.

Yet it had all started so well, despite a pre-match blow when replacement loosehead Ryan Bevington withdrew after failing to recover from the knee injury that forced him to sit out the win in Zebre.

That led to a late call-up for Jack Cosgrove and the summer signing from Worcester was onto the pitch after just two minutes, called into action when Brok Harris suffered a bang to the head when making a tackle.

The influential South African staggered around, so it was no surprise that he didn’t return to the field and the prop was badly missed.

Free Press Series:

The Dragons wanted to be more cutthroat against Irish opposition than they had been in round one at Munster yet three chances from lineouts in the 22 went to waste in the opening exchanges.

They enjoyed territorial dominance but fly-half Sam Davies missed a 15th minute chance to reward that when he pulled a long-range penalty.

Another golden chance came and went when full-back Jordan Williams was released into the 22, although Connacht were offside after scrambling in defence.

The penalty was kicked to the corner and finally the Dragons struck for the lead after 19 minutes; the lineout drive was stopped but fly-half Davies put over centre Morgan with a flat pass before adding the extras for 7-0.

After working so hard for the lead, the Dragons promptly lost it.

Blindside Huw Taylor was getting through a mountain of work but slipped high in a tackle and Connacht went to the corner.

Their drive, like the hosts’, was stopped but then lock Gavin Thorbury just made the line with a charge.

Fly-half Conor Fitzgerald converted and then split the sticks with a penalty to make it 10-7 after half an hour.

The momentum was all with the Irish province and they stretched further ahead when they turned over a Dragons lineout and eventually span the ball left for wing Matt Healy to chip and chase for an excellent score.

Fitzgerald added the extras and the Dragons had lost their composure in the Rodney Parade rain.

With the lineout faltering badly, they needed a lift and got one on the brink of half-time when Connacht wing John Porch got his timing wrong and clattered Ashton Hewitt in the air.

That clumsiness led to the Australian being shown yellow by ref Marius Mitrea and meant that the hosts simply had to chip away at the 10-point gap after the resumption.

The Dragons started on the front foot but didn’t move their score along and instead it was the 14-man visitors that struck.

Prop Leon Brown was pinged for not rolling away, Connacht went to the corner and then drove over. Prop Finlay Bealham got the try, Fitzgerald added the extras and at 24-7 it was pretty much game over.

Connacht thought they had their bonus from a driving lineout after 66 minutes only for the TMO to spot a knock-on.

It was only the greasy ball that was holding up the visitors but they had their bonus when they demolished the Dragons’ scrum for Cillian Gallagher to score.

The Irish province had the job done but stuck the boot in with a final try by Ireland scrum-half Kieran Marmion before the hosts had the final say through flanker Taine Basham after a super offload by wing Owen Jenkins.

Connacht are what the Dragons aspire to be, but at the moment the teams are poles apart.

Dragons: J Williams, O Jenkins, T Morgan (J Dixon 58), A Warren, A Hewitt, S Davies, R Williams (captain, T Knoyle 58); B Harris (J Cosgrove 2), R Hibbard (E Shipp 58), L Brown (L Fairbrother 67), J Davies (M Williams 72), M Screech, H Taylor (H Keddie 48), T Basham, L Evans (H Taylor 56).

Scorers: try – T Morgan, T Basham; conversions – S Davies (2)

Connacht: T O’Halloran, J Porch, K Godwin, P Robb, M Healy, C Fitzgerald, C Blade, P McAllister, T McCartney, F Bealham, G Thornbury, Q Roux, E Masterson, J Butler (captain), P Boyle.

Replacements used: S Delahunt, D Buckley, D Robertson-McCoy, U Dillane, C Gallagher, K Marmion, T Farrell, S Fitzgerald.

Scorers: tries – G Thornbury, M Healy, F Bealham, C Gallagher, K Marmion; conversions – C Fitzgerald (5); penalty – C Fitzgerald

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)

Attendance: 3,257