AGAINST Edinburgh it was a desperation to pile on the points that led to the Dragons being reeled in but against Northampton it was the desire to hold what they had that cost them dear.

Dean Ryan’s squad are preparing for the Rainbow Cup in Ystrad Mynach this week when they really should have been getting ready for a huge test against Ulster’s power in the last eight of the European Challenge Cup.

The Dragons enjoyed three commanding leads against the Saints in a mad 11-try thriller at Rodney Parade on Saturday evening.

They were 22-3 up on the stroke of half-time thanks to a double by Ashton Hewitt either side of a Matthew Screech try.

They then went 32-17 up with half an hour to go when Sam Davies converted his own try after the Saints had been reduced to 13 men courtesy of a pair of yellows.

They then enjoyed a 39-24 lead on the hour after Wales prop Leon Brown barged over.

That should have been enough for victory but the Dragons conceded three late tries to suffer an agonising European exit.

Director of rugby Dean Ryan lamented his side being “passive” in trying to kill the game, that after they had been too desperate and loose when hunting a big win against Edinburgh in their Guinness PRO14 finale in their bid for Champions Cup qualification They held on for victory against the Scots but suffered anguish in the closing stages against the Saints.

Free Press Series: STOPPED: Aaron Wainwright hits Harry Mallinder with a big tackleSTOPPED: Aaron Wainwright hits Harry Mallinder with a big tackle

“The defeat is made even more painful because there were so many positives. We could and should have pushed on to win that game,” said captain Williams.

“We went a bit passive and tried hanging on to win rather than keeping to the plan of how we want to play and putting it on them.

“Credit to Northampton, they came at us second half and scored some impressive tries. We will take plenty of positives but there is plenty to work on as well.

“It’s a good learning experience for us. We are disappointed to have lost and it really hurts, but there is a lot that we can take from that game.

“The main point is not to try and hang on, we should push on. A Leinster or Ulster would keep putting a side to the sword.

“We have to be confident like that and keep playing in the same way that got us in the lead.”

The Dragons finished the PRO14 with wins against the Ospreys, Glasgow and Edinburgh, plus they gave Ulster and Leinster scares.

Ryan’s men have scored 19 tries in their last five games thanks to mixing physicality with enterprise.

Free Press Series: Sam Davies darted over for the Dragons' fourth trySam Davies darted over for the Dragons' fourth try

“Our performances have been significantly better over the last six weeks. We are learning as we are going and it is showing,” insisted Williams.

“In the first 35 minutes against Edinburgh we showed glimpses of what we can do and it was the same against a quality Northampton side.

“We put them under some real pressure, but on the other side it’s about us dealing with pressure and when they have the momentum.”

The Dragons return to action in the Rainbow Cup on the weekend of April 23 at home to the Scarlets.

That fixture is followed by a trip to Cardiff and a clash with the Ospreys at Rodney Parade, with the remaining fixtures yet to be announced.