DRAGONS boss Ceri Jones praised Wales Under-20s prospects Taine Basham and Lennon Greggains for stepping up against the big boys in the loss to Guinness PRO14 play-off hopefuls Ulster.

The Rodney Parade region suffered a 28-15 defeat to the Irish province, who went back above the Scarlets into third in Conference B with a bonus-point victory.

READ MORE: Dragons 15 Ulster 28

The Dragons showed more bite than they had in their nine-try humiliation at Benetton the previous week but were unable to sign off with a win in their final Newport fixture of the season.

That was after suffering a pre-match blow when captain and hooker Richard Hibbard pulled out with an injury to his ribs then losing acting-skipper Harri Keddie to an ankle injury inside the first quarter.

With the Dragons already without back rowers Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty because of Wales duty plus the injured Ollie Griffiths, Nic Cudd, James Benjamin and Lewis Evans, that led to Basham and Greggains leading the charge alongside blindside Huw Taylor.

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“There was a lot more energy than against Benetton but we lacked a bit of accuracy at times,” said Jones, who will lead the Dragons until at least the end of the season after succeeding the sacked Bernard Jackman in December.

“I was disappointed in the first half when we failed to get the ball off the pitch and had to do double defensive sets – that really hurt us.

“We showed good resilience throughout the game and it was really pleasing that so many of the young players stepped up and gave big performances.

“Huw Taylor, Taine Basham, Lennon Greggains, they are people that we haven’t heard much of this year but they stepped up and did a job for us, although it wasn’t enough to get the win.”

Basham in particular impressed with his dynamism around the park, which earned him a late consolation score with a powerful carry from the back of a scrum.

“Taine is a player with x-factor,” said Jones. “He has got certain things to learn defensively and he was out of position at times, but he has really good feet and can pick up and make space for himself.

“Taine is a very similar type of player to Ollie Griffiths, he is very light on his feet and that makes space really easily. There is something there with him, no doubt about that.

“For him and Lennon Greggains to step up like that and play such a big part of a big game was really pleasing.”

Nonetheless, the Dragons took nothing from the game and are in a battle with Zebre and the Southern Kings to avoid finishing as the PRO14’s worst team.

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They were outmuscled by Ulster, who scored their bonus-point when they had two men in the sin bin.

“It was disappointed that when Ulster turned on the power when two players down, they zig-zagged up the field,” said Jones.

“I know that we had a lot of young players on but we really should have banged them backwards and created some sort of turnover. That’s disappointing but given the personnel it’s hard to address to a certain extent.”

“It was a lack of accuracy at times (that cost the Dragons), whether handling errors or mistakes at the lineout, partly due to the disruption of losing Hibbs in the warm-up.

“We need to address that because if we had been accurate then we could’ve got something out of the game, because the energy levels were where they needed to be.”

The Dragons did receive a boost when Wales tighthead Leon Brown came on in the second half after being sidelined since the start of December with a broken thumb.

“We wanted to get him on quite early in the game. He was maybe a little bit rusty and he will be disappointed with the first scrum but he got that back on track,” said Jones.

“Leon certainly showed his power with the last scrum that Taine scored from, so he got himself back into the game.”

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