BOSS Dean Ryan said the Dragons paid the price for being “passive” after blowing a commanding lead to be knocked out of the European Challenge Cup by Northampton.

It will be the Saints that host either Ulster or Harlequins in the quarter-finals after an incredible 11-try clash at Rodney Parade.

The Dragons looked set for the last eight when replacement prop Leon Brown put them 39-24 up on the hour, adding to earlier scores by wing Ashton Hewitt (2), lock Matthew Screech and fly-half Sam Davies.

However, Northampton threw caution to the wind and stunned the Dragons with a trio of late scores by back rower Teimana Harrison, wing Taqele Naiyaravoro and finally speedster Tom Collins.

“That last 20 minutes we went a bit passive. We knew that they were going to run but we were more worried about making a mistake than being aggressive in terms of trying to stop it,” lamented director of rugby Ryan.

Free Press Series: TRY: Sam Davies scored the Dragons' fourth tryTRY: Sam Davies scored the Dragons' fourth try

“They are too good a side for that, we knew they were going to run from the kick-offs and we knew they were going to try and throw everything at us.

“In other competitions you can hold a team and hope somebody makes a mistake, but you can’t do that at this level.

“You have to keep doing what you had done for the previous 50 or 60 minutes but we didn’t and paid the penalty for that in the end.”

The Dragons led 22-3 in the first half and 32-17 after 50 minutes only to concede a try when Northampton had 13 men.

Ryan should have been given a scouting mission tomorrow evening in the clash between Quins and Ulster but instead he will start plotting for the Rainbow Cup.

The boss believes his side’s finish to the PRO14 and display for much of the Saints clash gives reason for optimism.

“There were moments in that game when we played some really good stuff and we shouldn’t lose sight of that,” he said.

“We have got a lot of confidence in attack and we are incredibly physical at the moment, which is causing problems for sides.

“I don’t think anybody came here today thinking that we were going to pour tries onto Northampton and we did. What we have got to be is better when we are in that dominant position and nail games.

“What we have got to be is more consistent, which seems to be where we are at the moment, and be stronger from those experiences when playing good sides because you cannot be a passenger when playing a side as good as Northampton.”