DEAN Ryan was given plenty of food for thought ahead of the Dragons’ European quarter-final after his much-changed side battled hard before the wheels came off in a 41-20 defeat to the Scarlets.

The Rodney Parade region ended their 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 campaign with a loss in Newport to a Scarlets side that have a hope of making the semi-finals, albeit one likely to be dashed by Munster on Sunday.

Wing Jared Rosser and flanker Taine Basham crossed in the first half and centre Adam Warren went over at the death.

However, the visitors scored six through Samson Lee, Steff Evans, James Davies, Johnny McNicholl, Tom Rogers and Dane Blacker.

The Dragons showed spirit for three quarters of the game despite being overpowered against a strong visiting tight five that was helped along by a sky-high home penalty count.

It was just 19-15 at the break and it remained a four-point game approaching the hour until the Scarlets, who have their own Euro clash at Toulon, stretched away.

The Dragons can point to a harsh decision to disallow a second Rosser try, which would have made it 26-22 but in the end class told.

Free Press Series: LIVELY: Nick TompkinsLIVELY: Nick Tompkins

Ryan retained just five members of his XV that had drawn against the Ospreys on Sunday, keen to give derby experience to some promising prospects and chances to those aiming to be a part of the 23 against Bristol on September 18.

There were some glimpses to provide encouragement – with Wales centre Nick Tompkins especially lively after moving from 13 to 12, and his partnership with Warren is certainly an attacking one – but they didn’t really have a platform to work off.

Nonetheless, there was some nice offloading and a bit more patience with ball in hand than at the Liberty Stadium.

Ryan’s men have had an encouraging campaign in the PRO14 with highs in the festive derbies against the Scarlets and Ospreys.

They also pushed Cardiff Blues hard to leave the Arms Park with a losing bonus and drew at the Ospreys, so were keen to complete a set of tenacious displays against rivals.

Their selection – with young props Josh Reynolds and Chris Coleman and lock Max Williams up against Wales internationals – meant that they were underdogs but they started sharply, albeit they were still forcing things a little despite their enthusiasm leading to a high error count at the Ospreys.

Free Press Series: TOUGH TASK: Chris Coleman was p against Wyn JonesTOUGH TASK: Chris Coleman was p against Wyn Jones

They should have opened the scoring but Adam Warren couldn’t hold an interception of Wales wing Steff Evans’ ambitious wide pass just outside his 22.

The Scarlets then enjoyed a bout of pressure in the 22, kicking penalties to the corner in their bonus hunt, but it was the home side that struck first through the left boot of fly-half Sam Davies.

His penalty came after a smart grubber through for Nick Tompkins; a combination that bodes well for the future.

The Scarlets responded with brute force and got their reward when tighthead Samson Lee powered over for a try that Dan Jones converted.

The Dragons came straight back at them with a cracker, sparked by wing Ashton Hewitt working Will Talbot-Davies in down the left for the full-back to power into the 22.

This time Ryan’s men stayed patient and a lovely Sam Davies pass allowed flanker Taine Basham to draw the last man and put in winger Jared Rosser.

Davies converted to make it 7-3 but the west Walians were soon back in front thanks to a nice score of their own.

The forwards put the pressure on to move close to the line before slick handling put winger Evans in, Jones adding the extras again to make it 14-10 after 27 entertaining minutes.

That became a nine-point lead just after the half hour but this time the forwards didn’t need to rely on backs finishing off – a penalty was kicked to the corner for a rapid driving lineout to end in flanker James Davies scoring.

But the Dragons’ spirit would have pleased boss Ryan – they came back to have the final say of the half when penalties were kicked to the corner rather than the posts and flanker Taine Basham got low to power over.

Free Press Series: TRY: Taine Basham crashes overTRY: Taine Basham crashes over

At 19-15 the Dragons needed to hold firm against the Scarlets’ power game, so Wales tighthead Leon Brown was called from the bench for the second half.

It was a similar story after the break with the high penalty count leading to a yellow card for Dragons blindside Harri Keddie.

The Scarlets hunted their bonus and thought they had it through number eight Sione Kalamafoni only for the TMO to chalk the try off after he had reached through a ruck.

The Dragons moved out of their 22 and stayed out of it before getting Keddie back without the gap being extended.

However, the Scarlets had their bonus approaching the hour when a neat Jones grubber was snaffled by Wales wing Johnny McNicholl with his fly-half converting for a 26-15 lead.

The Dragons thought they were back in it on the hour when Rosser raced away for his second after a loose ball was hacked on by captain Rhodri Williams but the TMO intervened – Basham had loitered at a ruck while offside and instead it was three more points for Jones.

That seemed to crush the hosts and quickfire tries by replacements Tom Rogers and former-Dragon Dane Blacker made the scoreboard look ugly as it hit the 70s.

The Dragons rallied and had the final say when Warren sneaked over down the right for the final score of their PRO14 season.

Dragons: W Talbot-Davies; J Rosser, A Warren, N Tompkins, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams (captain); J Reynolds, E Dee, C Coleman, M Williams, M Screech, A Wainwright, T Basham, H Keddie. Replacements: E Shipp, C Maguire, L Brown, J Maksymiw, H Taylor, L Baldwin, A Robson, J Dixon.
Scorers: tries – J Rosser, T Basham, A Warren; conversion – S Davies; penalty – S Davies

Scarlets: A O’Brien; J McNicholl, S Hughes, J Williams, S Evans; D Jones, K Hardy, W Jones, K Owens (captain), S Lee, J Ball, L Rawlins, E Kennedy, J Davies, S Kalamafoni. Replacements: R Elias, P Price, J Sebastian, J Helps, J Macleod, D Blacker, P Asquith, T Rogers.
Scorers: tries – S Lee, S Evans, J Davies, J McNicholl, T Rogers, D Blacker; conversions – D Jones (4); penalty – D Jones

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)