THE Dragons’ European Challenge Cup campaign was pretty much over from the moment former scrum-halves Dmitri Yachvili and Austin Healey joined forces in Switzerland.

The Biarritz legend pulled the Rodney Parade region’s ball out of the bowl in Lausanne and the Leicester great drew them in Pool One.

The Dragons were put in with Clermont Auvergne and Northampton, a nightmare scenario that led to gulps in Ystrad Mynach.

Rather than challenging for the knockout stages it became about respectability, an ambition that they failed to achieve in three of four fixtures with the two big guns.

The Dragons put up a spirited fight in their toughest fixture, at the Stade Marcel Michelin, but were hammered home and away by the Saints and thrashed by the eventual winners in Newport.

They were rather predictably out of contention before the final two rounds and shipped 26 tries in their four fixtures against Clermont and Northampton.

South Wales Argus: GLORY: Taulupe Faletau on the charge in the Dragons' Euro win at GloucesterGLORY: Taulupe Faletau on the charge in the Dragons' Euro win at Gloucester

The Challenge Cup has provided the Dragons’ most memorable moments in recent years – beating Cardiff Blues and Gloucester in the quarter-finals, wins on French soil at Stade Francais and Pau, the first-half destruction of Newcastle at Kingston Park, hammering Bordeaux-Begles in Newport to have a shot at qualification – but last season was flat.

It will take some luck when the next draw is made at the, ahem, home of European rugby in Switzerland to avoid a repeat.

The five PRO14 teams – the Dragons, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Edinburgh and Zebre – will be split and each group will also feature a strong English representative.

Leicester find themselves in the odd, and slightly humbling, position of being in the second tier along with Wasps, Bristol, Worcester and big-spending London Irish.

Sale could join them depending on the conclusion to the Top 14 and the names of the French clubs heading into the Challenge Cup will make it a relief to get either Calvisano or Enisei, although past lengthy travel to Russia may make the Dragons squad disagree with that statement.

South Wales Argus: NEW BOSS: Dragons director of rugby Dean RyanNEW BOSS: Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan

Dean Ryan, who led Gloucester to Challenge Cup victory in 2006, will be in the underdog role in his first European campaign in charge of a Welsh region.

And the new director of rugby will realise that, while the odd European high will be welcome, he is going to be judged on what the Dragons achieve in the Guinness PRO14.

There have been four successive seasons of away whitewashes, they have a 22 per cent win record in their last 100 fixtures, they haven’t beaten a team that has finished in the play-off berths since Leinster in January, 2016, they’ve been worst Welsh team since finishing above the Blues in 2015.

Getting a reasonable tally of PRO14 victories has to be Ryan’s prime target in his first season at the helm and he has to box clever about achieving that with a thin squad.

The Dragons won’t have the biggest World Cup contingent – Cory Hill, Elliot Dee, Ross Moriarty, hopefully Aaron Wainwright, perhaps Leon Brown and Samoa’s Brandon Nansen – but those influential players will be missing for the first part of the campaign.

The management will then have to nurse them through the middle section of the season before losing them again for the Six Nations.

Being realistic will be vital and Ryan will have to avoid the mistake made by his predecessor Bernard Jackman, who fielded some iffy XVs in away games in the PRO14 at the start of his reign and oversaw some hammerings.

The Dragons have to put up more of a fight on the road in the league and notch a fair few victories in Newport.

If that means mirroring many of the French sides’ laissez-faire approach to Europe then so be it, especially if the draw is a shocker.

I love the Challenge Cup and it has provided many of my journalistic highs, but I’d welcome Ryan putting all his eggs in the PRO14 basket if it helps provide a long-awaited league upsurge.

South Wales Argus:

“WE fight to the end,” will sing those in amber that make their way to Wembley from Newport on Saturday, full of civic pride.

The same motto could be used by their friends at Spytty Park, who helped to put the city on the sporting map last week.

It was an emotional occasion for Newport Cricket Club when they hosted Glamorgan’s fixture against Gloucestershire, with County Championship action returning to the city after 54 years.

The previous game was against Warwickshire at Rodney Parade in 1965 and most at the club thought that would be it for them when their ground was sold in 1990; it was a fight for survival not a tussle to host top-level cricket.

Yet they have achieved the impossible since rebuilding at Newport International Sports Village, to the great credit of their gang of volunteers.

To the fore of the effort has been the Knight twins, Dave and Mike, who have been instrumental in helping cricket thrive in Newport, from junior level to the firsts’ Premier League titles.

The duo wear so many hats and are doers not talkers whether it be coaching, administration, sponsorship, fundraising, ground maintenance.

They, along with their fellow club stalwarts, deserved their big occasion to go swimmingly and the Gloucestershire fixture must have exceeded their wildest expectations.

There were four days of terrific cricket and an engaging finish as Glamorgan ended chasing an unlikely win after fighting back from a perilous position when asked to follow on.

Spytty Park looked a picture in the sun and the players seemed to enjoy playing at a ground with a buzz, but most importantly Newport delivered terrific cricket on a wicket that earned the praise of both coaches.

The club passed their test with flying colours when hosting Glamorgan's one-day clash with Pakistan A in 2016 and did the city proud once again last week.

Their gang of volunteers, who are in it for the love of the club and their sport, deserve a swift Glamorgan return thanks to their remarkable battling spirit, resolve and ambition shown since the 1990s.