THE Dragons’ quarter-final hopes are hanging by a thread after they were hit by a Bordeaux-Begles comeback in the European Challenge Cup.

The Rodney Parade region need something of a miracle if they are to sneak into the last eight after being overpowered by the French side in the second half at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.

The spirited Dragons led 23-15 after 53 minutes thanks to tries by flanker James Benjamin and scrum-half Sarel Pretorius.

However, Bordeaux’s hefty pack got on top and they muscled their way to a bonus point win that means they will head to Newport eyeing a spot in the knockout stages as one of the best runners-up.

The Dragons need to win heavily with four tries and for other results to go their way but realistically they are playing for pride on Saturday afternoon.

After a hat-trick of derby defeats, they produced a much-improved performance in Bordeaux to have hope of a win to better the 2014 success against Stade Francais in Paris and victory in Pau the following year.

But they ran out of steam against a classy Bordeaux side and didn’t even get the consolation of a bonus point for their spirited effort because Gavin Henson’s touchline conversion of Cary Meyer’s last-minute try was wide.

That they were flagging a little in the second half was understandable – the Dragons were down to the bare bones because of injury and the necessity to pick from a registered European squad meant that they could name just four forwards on their eight-man bench when ideally against a hefty Top 14 teams would have five, or possibly even six.

Now the same group must patch themselves up to give it another crack and return to winning ways on home soil.

The Dragons were first to have a sniff of a score when captain Cory Hill charged down a clearance kick but the lock’s hack was too heavy and the ball went dead.

Bordeaux then went close after a scintillating counter by full-back Geoffrey Cros and fly-half Matthieu Jalibert that led to a yellow card for Angus O’Brien after the full-back killed the attack from an offside position five metres from his line.

Jalibert added further punishment with three points but Dorian Jones swiftly levelled with a fine strike after the Dragons’ driving lineout was dragged down.

And the 14 men remarkably went 10-3 up with a thrilling score that started with a charge down of a Ben Volavola dink just outside their 22.

Hill shipped the ball on to James Benjamin and the openside played a ‘one-two’ with centre Adam Warren before getting back to his feet to cross when lock Luke Jones had desperately tackled him five metres out.

Jones converted, then struck over a second penalty to put the Dragons 13-3 up after half an hour before an absolute beauty of a kick from a yard inside his own half after a scrum penalty extended the lead.

However, Bordeaux got a key score before the break when a neat attack ended with fly-half Jalibert scuttling over down the left to make it 16-8.

There was still time for the Dragons to have another golden opportunity but this time they failed to take it when wing Jared Rosser was unable to take hooker Elliot Dee’s (slightly high) pass after lock Rynard Landman had intercepted.

Nonetheless the visitors would have been thrilled with their first-half efforts and they came out determined to not waste their strong position.

A brave call was made the kick a penalty to the corner rather than the posts but the lineout was lost and instead it was Bordeaux that struck for the next score.

A driving lineout rumbled towards the line and was illegally stopped but they kept playing with advantage for wing Blair Connor to go over from a pin-point cross kick.

Jalibert added the extras to cut the gap to a point and the hosts’ tails were up with desperate defence needed to deny them the lead, Dee and Jones combining to win a vital turnover five metres out.

And the Dragons went from being under the pump to eight points clear thanks to a superb individual score by scrum-half Sarel Pretorius, who sniped then weaved his way under the posts.

Jones converted to make it 23-15 but no sooner had the Dragons scored than they conceded, the driving lineout once again doing the damage.

Bordeaux were stopped illegally and then huge prop Peni Ravai quickly tapped and hammered away at the line. He was stopped but the ball was worked to the right for wing Fa’asui Fuiatai to go over for a try that Jalibert superbly converted.

And the hosts were in the lead on the hour when another strong run by the impressive Ravai ended with full-back Geoffrey Cros going over for the bonus score.

Jalibert’s conversion made it 29-23 and the killer blow for the weary Dragons came in the 70th minute when a flowing attack ended with Cros’ second, Jalibert making it 36-23 from the tee.

The Dragons had the final say when they hammered away at the line before working the ball wide right for Meyer to cross, but Henson was unable to add the extras from the touchline, meaning it was a fruitless trip to France.

Bordeaux-Begles: G Cros; F Fuatai, R Lonca (captain), B Volavola (A Naqalevu 65), B Connor; M Jalibert, G Doubrere (J Gimbert 40); S Taofifenua (T Paiva 54), O Avei, P Ravai (L Tabidze 68), L Jones, C Cazeaux (P Gayraud 50), M Diaby, A Roumat, M Tauleigne (L Houston 57).

Scorers: tries – M Jalibert, B Connor, F Fuatai, G Cros (2); conversions – M Jalibert (4); penalty – M Jalibert

Dragons: A O’Brien (C Meyer 71); A Hewitt (L Belcher 77), A Warren, J Dixon, J Rosser (P Howard 62); D Jones (G Henson 65), S Pretorius (D Babos 71); T Davies (S Hobbs 65), E Dee, L Fairbrother, R Landman, C Hill (captain), A Wainwright, J Benjamin (J Davies 45), R Blake.

Scorers: tries – J Benjamin, S Pretorius, C Meyer; conversions – D Jones (2); penalties – D Jones (3)

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)

Attendance: 14,232