THE DRAGONS were daring to dream early on a perishing night in Dublin but a bright start was followed by an all-too-familiar end as Leinster dished out a 54-10, eight-try hammering in the Guinness PRO14.

The Rodney Parade region came flying out of the traps to enjoy a 10-0 lead thanks to a try by back row forward James Benjamin and five points from Gavin Henson’s right boot.

However, that merely stung Leinster into action and the title contenders had their bonus point in the bag before 33 minutes was on the clock thanks to four converted tries.

That turned it into a test of the Dragons’ character but they couldn’t stem the flow and for the third time this season they suffered a drubbing on Irish soil. Mercifully the new conference system means there’s no trip to Galway.

It was a performance that will hugely disappoint head coach Bernard Jackman on the return to his old stamping ground – there should have been much, much more tenacity – but thankfully it signals the end of a nightmare streak on the road.

All five December dates are in Newport and the Dragons will hope to prosper from home comforts.

Away failure is nothing new, in fact it was expected at one of the toughest venues in the PRO14, but the manner of it was the galling part after they made a bright opening.

The Dragons haven’t won on their travels in the league since beating Treviso in March, 2015 while their last Irish triumph was an upset in Dublin a month before that success, their sole success on Leinster soil.

Without their Ireland contingent, Leinster were ‘vulnerable’ in the same way that the All Blacks are in Cardiff this evening; their matchday squad still featured 14 players that had triumphed comprehensively 39-16.

Victory was a long shot but a good performance was essential leading up to a December that sees Ulster, Enisei-STM, Newcastle, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys all visit Rodney Parade.

It’s fair to say that pride was also on the line after a pair of meek performances in Ireland in 2017/18 with a combined total of 15 tries conceded in 52-25 and 49-6 hammerings to Ulster and Munster respectively.

Jackman fielded his strongest side available without his injury victims and Wales quartet but the game had a similar one-sided feel to Belfast and Cork.

Yet the Dragons made a bright start, showing patience with ball in hand to move to the hosts’ 22 where Henson showed all his experience to knock over a sweet drop goal for a 3-0 lead in the third minute.

They continued to have the upper hand with centre Adam Warren and wing Ashton Hewitt enjoying good breaks – the Rodney Parade region showed more intent and enterprise in the first 10 minutes that they had in 80 at Munster.

And the Dragons had their reward when they crossed in the 13th minute after James Benjamin burst into the 22 and then, after several charges at the line by his fellow forwards, punched it over from a smart Sarel Pretorius pass for a try that Henson converted.

At 10-0 the home crowd were restless but they were soon soothed a score sparked by a lovely break by fly-half Ross Byrne.

His run was followed by hooker Sean Cronin going close from a cross-kick before scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park sniped over, Byrne making it a seven-pointer.

And it was 14-10 to the Irish province in the 29th minute when Wallabies lock Scott Fardy and Ireland front rower Cronin went close before the ball was spun wide with penalty advantage for Isa Nacewa to cross down the left.

Byrne converted majestically and the home side were buoyant; the Dragons needed to ride out the storm. Instead the hosts had their bonus point in the bag before 33 minutes.

Try number three came from flanker Josh Murphy following a five-metre lineout and almost straight from the restart Leinster roared down the left flank and then Byrne’s cross-kick to the right saw number eight Max Deegan cruise over.

At 28-10 this was a character test for the Dragons, who needed to rediscover their attacking composure and display some defensive tenacity.

They certainly had to show some steel when eight minutes into the second half they not only shipped a penalty try but had to cope for 10 minutes without full-back Angus O’Brien for a deliberate knock-on.

Number six followed when a driving lineout and forward charges was followed by a second run-in by Nacewa, Byrne converting from the touchline.

The game went flat as the benches were emptied with precious little action to warm the hands of the home faithful as the clock ticked towards 80.

Alas, Leinster still had hunger for more and went over for number seven when full-back Jordan Larmour won the race to a grubber and then he set up centre Rory O’Loughlin with a super run to put the cap on another grim night in Ireland.

Leinster: J Larmour, F McFadden, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, I Nacewa (captain, C O’Brien 53), R Byrne (C Marsh 60), J Gibson-Park (N McCarthy 55), E Byrne (P Dooley 48), S Cronin (R Strauss 48), M Bent (A Porter 48), R Molony (I Nagle 7, J Conan 67), S Fardy, Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, M Deegan.

Scorers: tries – J Gibson Park, I Nacewa (2), Josh Murphy, M Deegan, penalty try, J Larmour, R O’Loughlin; conversions – R Byrne (5), automatic extra, C Marsh

Dragons: A O’Brien, J Rosser, A Warren, J Dixon (C Edwards 65), A Hewitt, G Henson (A Robson 65), S Pretorius (D Babos 65), S Hobbs (B Harris 40) E Shipp (G Ellis 60), L Fairbrother (L Garrett 60), J Davies (R Landman 53), M Screech, A Wainwright, O Griffiths (captain, B Roach), J Benjamin.

Scorers: try – J Benjamin ; conversion – G Henson; drop goal – G Henson

Yellow card: A O’Brien

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)

Argus star man: James Benjamin