A WEEK after being hit by a French comeback, the Dragons fell short after a spirited rally against Lyon at Rodney Parade.

Dean Ryan’s men slipped to a 41-28 defeat in Newport and their hopes of European Challenge Cup qualification are hanging by a thread.

Lyon rang the changes ahead of their Top 14 play-off push but still had enough to ensure at least one French side earned their European points in the UK this weekend.

Last Saturday the Dragons should have won in Perpignan but had to settle for a consolation bonus point. This time they could have won – they wouldn’t have deserved it – but botched chances to at least grab a pair of bonuses.

It is a familiar tale of pluckiness. The Dragons still have a slight hope of sneaking into the knockout stages but now need to win against Benetton in Treviso next month then beat Gloucester in Newport in April to stand a chance.

It’s not impossible but a dramatic chance of form is needed by a side who have won just once in nine games and haven’t come close to that notable high at Connacht since returning from the autumn internationals.

The Dragons trailed 22-13 at the break after conceding a trio of tries and getting a glimmer of hope from the final play when Fiji tighthead Mesake Doge went over from close range.

A poor start to the second half saw Lyon bag their four-try bonus only for Aki Seiuli and Aaron Wainwright to get the hosts right back into it in the final quarter.

Lyon started to look a little ragged but held on for the win, backing up their opening weekend success against Gloucester.

South Wales Argus: CRUNCH:Josh Lewis is tackled highCRUNCH:Josh Lewis is tackled high

The Dragons were forced into a pre-match change when Ollie Griffiths withdrew but the XV certainly wasn’t weakened by the promotion from the bench for Wales international Aaron Wainwright.

They fell behind after 10 minutes when wing Rio Dyer failed to gather a kick over the top before tighthead Demba Bamba showed some neat footwork to go close, allowing fly-half Leo Berdue to float over a pass to Ethan Dumortier on the right wing.

The Dragons got on the scoreboard from the tee in the 19th minute after a thunderous high tackle by Beka Saginadze on Josh Lewis.

However, no soon had Sam Davies chipped away at the lead than Lyon stretched away.

The Dragons failed to claim the restart, Lyon dominated the resulting scrum and scored while playing with advantage, the defence going missing from scrum-half Jonathan Pelissie’s grubber for centre Aldred Parisien to have a simple score.

Berdue converted and then Davies pulled a simple kick after it was Lyon’s turn to botch the restart, a miss that was made all the painful when his opposite number rewarded a strong scrum with three points to make it 15-3.

The penalties kept coming and Davies made no mistake after a breakdown offence but the Dragons wasted a rare chance in the 22 when, after a strong carry by Taine Basham, Josh Lewis went off his feet in support of Adam Warren five metres out.

It was Berdue’s turn to be wasteful when he missed from in front of the posts but the French side soon had their third try and it was all too easy again.

The Dragons followed a poor kick and slow chase with sloppy defence, allowing Parisien to grubber, collect and put scrum-half Pelissie under the posts for a seven-point.

The hosts desperately needed a response before the break and a penalty was not enough – captain Harri Keddie pointed to the corner rather than the posts.

The clock went red but the Dragons got the try they needed when tighthead Mesake Doge drove over for his fourth of the campaign.

Davies converted and there was hope at 22-13 down, albeit a dramatic reduction in errors was essential to enjoy a comeback.

Instead Lyon had their bonus point 90 seconds after the restart thanks to a midfield interception by Davit Niniashvili that was eventually stopped a yard out.

Bamba had another crack and then Pelissie produced a peach of a kick out wide to the unmarked Dumortier on the right wing.

Berdue converted superbly but the Dragons, to their credit, didn’t let heads go down.

They piled the pressure on in the 22 and could very well have earned a man advantage because of persistent infringements.

Instead they got a pushover try by loosehead Aki Seiuli to cut the gap to 29-18.

Lyon were reduced to 14 men after 51 minutes, hard-running centre Thibaut Regard shown yellow after the penalties kept coming, but Davies wasted a chance to really put the heat on when he sent the penalty dead rather than in the corner. He followed that by failing to find touch from a penalty.

The Dragons blew their chances… but were back in the game courtesy of a Lyon howler when Wainwright intercepted a wild pass and ran in from halfway.

The kickers then traded blows with Davies striking a conversion and penalty to a brace by Berdue, leaving the French side protecting a 35-28 lead with 13 minutes to go.

The Dragons were given a golden chance for the comeback when Lyon hooker Mickael Ivaldi was sin-binned for stopping Tavis Knoyle after a quick tap, meaning they would finish the game down to 14 men.

That penalty was kicked to the corner only for the French side to earn a penalty to release the pressure and wind the clock down.

It got even better for them when a high tackle allowed Berdue to make it 38-28 with 73 minutes on the clock.

Still the Dragons had a chance for at least a pair of bonuses but a pair of lineouts in the 22 went wrong, replacement hooker James Benjamin first overthrowing and then having one stolen.

Berdue had the final say with a penalty, ensuring a convincing win on the scoreboard but a nervy one in reality.

Dragons: Lewis; Holmes, Warren, Owen, Dyer; Davies, Knoyle; Seiuli, T Davies, Doge, J Davies, Carter, Keddie (captain), Basham, Wainwright.
Replacements: Benjamin, Reynolds, Brown, Maksymiw, Taylor, Babos, Roberts, J Rosser.
Scorers: tries – Doge, Seiuli, Wainwright; conversions – Davies (2); penalties – Davies (3)

Lyon: Laporte, Dumortier, Parisien, Regard, Niniashvili; Berdeu, Pélissié; Devisme, Charcosset, Bamba, Geraci, Mayanavanua, Lambey (captain), Saginadze, Fainga'a.
Replacements: Ivaldi, Rey, Kaabèche, Guillard, Cretin, Rimet, Ngatai, Tchaptchet.
Scorers: tries – Dumortier (2), Parisien, Pelissie; conversions – Berdue (3); penalties – Berdue (5)

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)