Dragons coach Anthony Griffin praised his side for the way they fought back against the Panthers before falling just short and losing 20-16 on Friday night.
The Panthers were rampant in the first 40 minutes when opening up a 20-6 lead at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium with Viliame Kikau chipping in with two tries.
However the Dragons came fighting back after the interval, keeping the reigning premiers scoreless and winning the half 10-0.
It wasn't enough but Griffin was a proud coach after the game, especially considering they had to do without Jaydn Sua'a and Zac Lomax who were both sin-binned for spells.
"With the ball we were just way too clunky playing 20 minutes with 12 men killed us," Griffin told reporters after the game.
"But I was proud of their effort even though we've got a bit to fix up. To beat them 10-0 in the second half after everything we'd gone through was a massive positive for us."
Meanwhile Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was also a proud man, praising his players for the way they hung on to secure the win.
A late try by Lomax set up a frantic final four minutes of the game but the Panthers dug deep to get the job done.
"In the end I was proud of the boys the way they hung on. We made it hard for ourselves because the Dragons were coming at us with nothing to lose," Cleary added.