BAYONNE v DRAGONS (Tonight, KO 7.45)
WASPS are likely to finish top of Pool Three of the Amlin Challenge Cup regardless of tonight’s events at the Stade, leaving Newport Gwent Dragons to ponder one that got away.
It has been a season of frustration for the Rodney Parade region and their loss to Bayonne in Newport is up there with the most galling of defeats.
They earned that familiar tag of plucky losers after being edged out 22-19 with their defeat confirmed by the television match official, who deemed Andy Tuilagi to have been held up over the line following a 21-phase attack.
From that moment, the Dragons have been on the brink of elimination from the tournament.
It needs a miracle to prevent Wasps from being denied a place in the knockout stages.
Given that Wasps will earn five points against whipping boys Mogliano, Bayonne cannot overhaul Dai Young’s side after being beaten in terms of their head-to-head results.
And the Dragons would need bonus-point victories in the south of France and against Wasps at Rodney Parade next Thursday.
Not only that, they must deny the Englishmen either kind of losing bonus point so that they can win the head-to-head.
The Dragons’ away form is evidence of how unlikley a five-point haul is this evening – they have earned just six points on their travels in all competitions this season, a drubbing of Mogliano and a narrow loss at Cardiff Blues.
So their first focus is on getting what would be a morale-boosting victory, just their sixth in a hugely frustrating campaign.
The key to doing that, according to captain Lewis Evans, is starting as they finished against their hosts.
“At the end of the game against Bayonne at Rodney Parade we showed our endeavour, spirit and what we are capable of,” said the flanker.
“As long as we don’t leave it until the last two minutes we can really challenge them tonight and hopefully come away with the win.”
But they are also aware that a performance like the one they produced in defeat to Connacht last weekend will lead to a humiliating drubbing in a game being shown live on Sky Sports, S4C and Eurosport France.
The Dragons were thrashed 30-11 in Galway.
“We need to turn up for the first 20 minutes and look like we actually want to be there,” said Evans. “I’m not sure that was the case at Connacht and that is unacceptable.
“When we turn up with venom and attitude we are a good side.
“We need to challenge Bayonne and fly into them, because if we don’t and we sit back then they will have a field day.
“But this is a big opportunity to turn some heads.”