CHRIS KIRWAN: Scarlets and Blues show the way with Euro spirit
10:02am Thursday 16th January 2014 in Sport
TO enjoy a successful European campaign a side needs to marry home triumphs with the odd scalp on the road.
It's fair to say that Newport Gwent Dragons are some way short of managing that after enduring their sixth successive season without a win on their travels to a professional side in the Heineken or Amlin Challenge Cup.
The Rodney Parade region have lost to Bath, Bordeaux-Begles, Wasps, Bayonne, Exeter, Perpignan, Glasgow, Toulouse, Wasps again, Gloucester, Biarritz, Glasgow again, Toulouse again, Bath again and Glasgow again.
The last time they won against a frontline side was the 2007 success against Treviso, although that was before the Italians were in the Pro12 and it was a victory that counted for little given that it was sandwiched by losses at Perpignan and London Irish.
The 2013/14 Amlin campaign should end with a bonus point win in Mogliano this evening but it won't mask what has been another season of Euro disappointment.
They may have been up against a Bath side that boast a quality first XV and pretty formidable second string but the Dragons have produced one fine display out of four crunch pool games.
They got the job done against Bordeaux-Begles at Rodney Parade but their hopes of qualification were ended by failure to leave the Rec or Stade Andre Moga with anything to show for their efforts.
That meant the clash with Bath at Rodney Parade – which was a potential money-spinner – was a dead rubber rather than a humdinger.
Nonetheless, the home faithful deserved better than the tepid display that was served up with the Dragons' worst display of the season helping the visitors secure a four-try bonus after 31 minutes.
It has been a poor effort and contrasts starkly with the guts and determination of two of their Welsh rivals.
It may not be the last eight of the Heineken Cup but if the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues earn European quarter-final ties then they deserve an almighty pat on the back.
Wins against Harlequins and Exeter respectively this weekend should secure Amlin Challenge Cup encounters in April.
Not many would have predicted that when the draw was made in June.
The Blues, despite a crippling injury list, have recovered from a nightmare start in the west country to be on the brink of securing second spot behind champions Toulon.
And the Scarlets are close to an Amlin spot despite being in a 'group of death' with Clermont Auvergne, Racing Metro and Harlequins.
The pair have shown oodles of spirit and demonstrate what there is to work with if a bit more money can be added to budgets (revenue that the regions say they have secured by committing to the Rugby Champions Cup proposed by the English).
The Dragons need to follow their lead if there is a proper European competition next year... but that's a big if.
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