Pro14: Dragons 17-21 Benetton

Dragons' Aaron Wainwright holds off Tito Tebaldi
Dragons' Aaron Wainwright holds off Tito Tebaldi
Pro14: Dragons v Benetton
Dragons (7) 17
Tries: Howells, R Williams Cons: Henson, Lewis Pens: Henson
Benetton (11) 21
Tries: Zanni 2, Steyn Pens: Allen 2

The new-look Dragons provided the same old frustration for their fans as they lost 21-17 at home to Benetton in the Pro14.

A second-minute try for winger Dafydd Howells provided a flying start and Rhodri Williams grabbed a late score to earn a consolation point.

Alessandro Zanni (twice) and Braam Steyn crossed for the visitors.

But handling errors throughout prevented Dragons from applying any concerted pressure.

It was a disappointing start to the campaign given the extent of the Welsh side's summer recruitment, fielding eight debutants in their 23-man squad, five of them internationals, as they looked to improve on a meagre two league victories in 2017-18.

Howells, one of the Dragons' new boys, made an immediate impression with an interception to score after 69 seconds, Gavin Henson converting.

But the visitors proved more efficient as Zanni replied from a forward rumble after five minutes, while Howells could not take Jordan Williams' pass when clear for a potential second.

Two Tommy Allen penalties nosed the Italians into an 11-7 half-time lead as the Dragons failed to convert late pressure into points.

Henson's penalty briefly got the Dragons back within a point, but Benetton's no-frills forward pressure brought a close-range effort from flanker Steyn and a second for Zanni as they pinned the home side in their own half.

A late flourish from the home side saw impressive scrum-half Rhodri Williams snipe over after 74 minutes, Josh Lewis converting, before Treviso closed out the game.

Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman told BBC Sport Wales:

"It was really poor and I take responsibility for it- maybe we were under-cooked and maybe a bit over-anxious, sometimes you can want it too much.

"If you look at the handling errors we made, it was uncharacteristic and we gave Benetton's set-piece so many chances, we've got to come in on Monday and fix it.

"There's a lot of new boys but the good thing now is we've got experience there. (Ross Moriarty) is our marquee signing and he'll come into the team (against Southern Kings), he's a winner, he's very driven and one player can be a catalyst for everyone to calm down."

Dragons: Jordan Williams; Dafydd Howells, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos; Gavin Henson, Rhodri Williams; Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard, Leon Brown, Cory Hill (capt), Brandon Nansen, Lewis Evans, Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Brok Harris, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Huw Taylor, Tavis Knoyle, Josh Lewis, Adam Warren.

Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Monty Ioane; Tommaso Allan, Tito Tebaldi; Federico Zani, Hame Faiva, Tiziano Pasquali, Alessandro Zanni, Dean Budd (capt), Abraham Steyn, Sebastian Negri, Marco Barbini.

Replacements: Engjel Makelara, Derrick Appiah, Simone Ferrari, Marco Fuser, Federico Ruzza, Marco Lazzaroni, Giorgio Bronzini, Tommaso Iannone.

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)

Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Simon Rees (WRU)

TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)

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