Ceri Jones insists there is light at the end of the dark tunnel the Dragons have been trapped in for 16 years and it lies with the brightness shone by the region’s youth.
The Dragons coach saw his team slump to a 28-15 home defeat to Ulster on Sunday – their sixth loss in seven games in 2019.
It keeps the Dragons at the bottom of Conference B of the Guinness Pro14, a position that must induce hollow laughter among supporters who were told that things would be different once the Welsh Rugby Union were steering the ship.
But Jones believes the performance of 19-year-old Taine Basham at least offers a flicker of hope that things might eventually improve.
The Wales U20 flanker was the Dragons’ stand-out performer and Jones said: “He is a player with X-Factor. He has certain things to learn defensively, he was out of positon at times, but he has got really good feet and can pick up and make space for himself.
“I thought Taine and Lennon (Greggains) – to step up like that and play such a big part in a big game – did really well.
“He is very similar to Ollie (Griffiths). His feet make space for him, he is very light on his feet, and there is something there with him.”
Basham – a former Bedwas and Cross Keys player – does indeed have something about him that draws the eye. He showed his speed, agility and dynamism against a powerful Ulster pack, switching to No.8 after an injury to Harri Keddie and scoring a try before the visitors tightened their grip to go away with a try bonus point.
Those points move Ulster up to third in the table – above the Scarlets – and increase the possibility there will be no Welsh teams in the play-offs this season.
Jones was also pleased to see the return of prop Leon Brown, who came off the bench after being released by Wales this week.
“It was good to have Leon back,” added Jones. “We wanted to get him on early in the game.
“Maybe he was a little bit rusty to start with and the first scrum he will be a little bit disappointed with.
“But he got that back on rack and he showed his power with the last scrum that Taine (Basham) scored from. It’s really pleasing to see him back.”
Despite their tally of just four victories in 17 league matches this season, Jones insists performance levels have been strong by his side – a judgement that will raise an eyebrow or two of anyone who saw their disintegration out in Italy against Benetton.
“Performances have been pretty strong since the Christmas period, with two blips against a strong Clermont team and last week over at Benetton.
“We have been pretty consistent with our levels of performances and hopefully, if we keep doing that, the results will come.
“We know the scale of the opposition we will face next (Ospreys). We hope to have some of our Wales contingent back for that and they can add to us.
“There was lots more energy than last week – but we lacked a bit of accuracy at times. 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 hurts us.
“We came back and showed good resilience throughout the game and it was really pleasing to see so many of our young players step up and give such big performances.
“Huw Taylor, Lennon Greggains, Taine Basham – these are people that we haven’t heard much from this year, but they have stepped up and done a job for us.
The Dragons now have four games left this season – a trip to the Ospreys on March 23, followed by two games in South Africa in April against the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings, before their season ends – appropriately – in a Judgement Day match against the Scarlets at the Principality Stadium.