THE Beast from the East ensured that there was no chance of the Dragons' humiliation in Port Elizabeth being swept under the carpet last year.

While March snow and ice caused postponements in Europe, the Rodney Parade region were suffering the embarrassment of becoming the Southern Kings' first scalp in the heat of Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

A Friday night game that would normally have gone under the radar was streamed on YouTube and Facebook, providing some welcome rugby for sofa-bound supporters who had been denied their hit.

What followed was so gruesome that it should have had an age-restriction.

The Dragons were an absolute shambles, playing into the hands of their free-running hosts.

The Kings, who had managed just four losing bonuses all season, had their four-try bonus secure after just 45 minutes.

The South Africans ran in two more efforts in a 45-13 drubbing and if anything, the scoreline was generous to the Dragons.

Bernard Jackman's side missed 28 tackles in a staggering implosion after they had led 13-7 on the stroke of half-time.

Ah, but this was a demoralised team with plenty of players set for the exit in a summer of change, wasn't it? Nope, of the 22 that took to the field 19 have been on the books this season.

Campaign Series:

Such horror shows would stand out for most sides but sadly those of us that have watched the Dragons in recent seasons are spoilt for choice (60-3 versus Glasgow is still my worst but this year's 59-10 against Leinster and 57-7 at Benetton were strong contenders).

Such lowlights mean that nobody can be snooty about the Kings, who have won just three games since joining European rugby. In that same period the Rodney Parade region have triumphed just six times.

The Dragons are spared a return to the scene of the crime on Sunday – their hosts now call Nelson Mandela University Sports Stadium home – but they are slight underdogs in Port Elizabeth.

Ceri Jones' men have four wins to the Kings' two but trail them by a point in the scramble to avoid being Conference B's worst team.

The two teams are battling with Zebre to dodge being the PRO14's most hapless side, a tag that thankfully just carries shame rather than relegation and the loss of jobs.

All this in a season that started with hope that the Dragons would have a bright campaign. That they have actually improved only goes to hammer home just how grim 2017/18 was.

Their continuing troubles would have led to plenty of folk shifting uncomfortably when the Kings' new chairman spoke about being "on a tightrope with PRO14" because of their record since joining the league along with the Cheetahs, who made the play-offs last year and have won six times when suffering from second season syndrome.

"There is an expectation that we will throw money at a whole bunch of marquee players. But that's not the case," Loyiso Dotwana said about plans in Port Elizabeth.

"Obviously we are looking for a few big names to bolster the side‚ but the plan is steady growth and improvement.

"The PRO14 organisation has raised concerns about the Southern Kings' performances and value to the tournament.

"We are on a tightrope with PRO14 and we will respond to those challenges in a positive way. So we will recruit some good players in the short term to improve our quality.

"Also‚ coach Deon Davids hasn't had the right support so we will help him by employing some new assistants and expertise."

Spot the similarities with the comments made by Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips after their takeover of the Dragons.

"We have to back ourselves to make this sustainable. Splashing the cash on marquee players is not going to be what we do," he said to the Argus in September, 2017.

"Bernard has a sensible budget that over time allows us to invest to improve. We are not here with some wow signings just to impress everybody, quite the opposite."

That after he said at the press conference unveiling the former Ireland hooker as boss that: "We will make sure he gets the right support to have the right backroom staff and the right quantity of backroom staff.

"We are unlikely to invest a huge amount in the squad but we will likely invest in the backroom, particularly this year, to give the players every chance to succeed."

The Dragons know that the very same concerns raised about the Kings also apply to them, which is why this weekend is so important.

Their hosts have been prodded with a stick and will respond to those comments but the Rodney Parade region have travelled with a strong side.

Campaign Series:

They have some key individuals missing through injury – who doesn't in April? – but the XV is likely to feature five players from Wales' Grand Slam winning squad.

It won't be easy but the Dragons have to kill off this pesky PRO14 losing streak on the road that has grown to 42 games since the triumph in Treviso in March, 2015.

Of the 29-man squad that has travelled to South Africa, only SEVEN players (Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Matthew Screech, Lewis Evans, Jason Tovey, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos) have won away in the league with the Dragons.

That has to change and this miserable record cannot be allowed to hang over the region going into 2019/20.

The improvements hoped for when WRU boss Phillips was commenting two years ago haven't materialised and the Dragons have been unable to rise from the bracket of teams at the basement.

Achieving that is hard given the budget that they operate with, but if they are to make strides then getting the away monkey off their back is vital.

Under Jones' stewardship they ended the derby drought with victory against the Ospreys in December.

Failure to record that first win on the road since Lyn Jones was at the helm would allow Dotwana & Co to justifiably ponder whether the PRO14 chiefs will get in touch with Dragons big wigs.