Dragons head coach Dean Ryan was forced to give two players their first taste of senior professional rugby in the cauldron of a Heineken Champions Cup match away against Bordeaux.
Coronavirus issues and injuries forced the Dragons to play without 16 players in Bordeaux but there were no complaints from their boss after his side went down to a 47-8 defeat.
They conceded seven tries on the night, three of them to Pumas wing Santiago Cordero.
“These are challenging circumstances for everyone at the moment. We never planned for what happened in the last two weeks,” said Ryan, who lost skipper for the night Sam Davies to an injury in the warm-up.
“Circumstances forced us to experience this game in a different way to how we would have planned for it. But we wanted to play and we wanted to get it on.
“This was the highest level some of these guys had played at and I thought for the first 30-40 minutes it was a really great, gutsy effort. Two players hadn’t played senior professional rugby before.
“To do that against Bordeaux is quite a significant ask, especially for one of them at number 10 (Evan Lloyd) from 30 minutes.
“There were a few detailed things that didn’t go right, but given the last couple of weeks and the number of changes we’ve had that was to be expected.”
Bordeaux built on their opening-round triumph at Northampton to move them into third place in Pool A and give them a great chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
They head to Newport to meet the Dragons in round three and then host the Saints in their final pool match.
Cordero became the first Bordeaux player to score a hat-trick in the tournament, crossing once in the first half and then within 16 seconds of the restart. His hat-trick score came in the 61st minute.
“We were just too loose after half-time and they were too good,” added Ryan. “We have talked all along about enjoying this experience and learning from it, but for 20 minutes it was a stark lesson in where we need to be better if we want to stay at this level.
“It is a big challenge for young players like Rio Dyer and Ben Carter to be playing against some of the players who were out there tonight. We would definitely have wanted to get the 20 minutes in the middle under better control.
“If we had done that there might have been a better reflection of the game but that’s what happens when you play teams that are this good.”
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