THE tickets were not quite as hot as those for the visit of Manchester City in February but queues still formed at Rodney Parade as supporters ensured they would be in place for another clash with a Premier League big boy.

Newport County have boosted their coffers but almost importantly have created a buzz thanks to their cup exploits against Leeds and Middlesbrough of the Championship and the top flight's Tottenham, Leicester and West Ham.

This time the Exiles had to be content with giving a bloody nose to the Hammers rather than causing an upset but their performance in front of 6,382 punters, plus tens of thousands more watching on television, further enhanced their reputation.

Michael Flynn's side have risen to the occasion when the crowds have been big, they have made the most of the feelgood factor to turn into a club with genuine aspirations of playing in League One rather than suffering from nerves about dropping back into the Conference.

The cup run led to a promotion charge and from the outside there appears to be a momentum behind the Exiles, one that hopefully they can maintain to stay at the right end of the table and crucially keep developing off the field.

The Dragons, fellow Rodney Parade tenants, could do with a similar buzz when they play in the city.

South Wales Argus:

Supporters have often headed through the turnstiles through habit rather than enjoyment and it's been quite some time since there was a scramble to get a spot in the historic ground for a game of rugby.

There's another new boss at the helm and the hope is that director of rugby Dean Ryan, driving change on the field and off it after also securing a spot on the board, can be the one to finally get the Dragons on an upward curve.

Think back to the Paul Turner era and the Rodney Parade crowd was a vital tool in the region being a notoriously tough destination.

That has to be Ryan's first target if the Dragons are to improve on last year's tally of five league wins and provide more occasions like the December derby win against the Ospreys and shock Judgement Day victory against the Scarlets.

They haven't beaten a team that qualified for that season's play-offs since Leinster were downed 23-13 in Newport in January, 2016.

A tough, bloody-minded Dragons can help to restore the connection with the fans, creating an atmosphere that makes the ticket office phoneline ring more often.

Of course, it's fair to say that the Guinness PRO14 has its challenges and Zebre at 5.15pm on a Saturday in November doesn't exactly prompt a rush of adrenalin (just like MK Dons on a Tuesday night compared to Manchester City on the Saturday for County).

Last season the announced crowd figures were in the 4,000 for most games, Munster and Ulster sneaked over 5,000 and it was 7,376 for the Cardiff Blues game and 7,196 for the Ospreys.

Ryan needs to build up a head of steam for the Dragons and provide some cheer for the long-suffering fans against Connacht, Glasgow, Castres, Zebre and Worcester in the first half of the campaign.

Do that and it might just leave people worrying about their seats and spots on the terraces for the festive derbies against the Scarlets and Ospreys.

South Wales Argus:

WHEN Taine Basham scored a hat-trick for Wales against Italy in the Under-20s Six Nations, his boss was quick to praise the less eye-catching efforts of his Dragons teammate Lennon Greggains.

There has always been a steady stream of exciting back row talent coming through the ranks at Rodney Parade and Greggains has long been marked out as one to watch.

The 20-year-old's exploits at age-grade level have been encouraging; he may not be as dynamic as Basham but he is one of those players that brings the best out of others and has an appetite for the dirty work.

"Taine always gets the highlights! I can make 20 tackles but they always talk about Taine's try!" he joked before the summer's World Rugby U20 Championship.

"I'd say I do a lot of the unseen work but I don't mind that, I know what I'm good at and what I'm not really good at. I'd see myself as more of a physical player, my set piece and in the tackle area."

The former Newport High School Old Boy was aiming to become more of a regular with the Dragons seniors this season but sadly injury has struck.

Greggains is set for a season on the sidelines after rupturing knee ligaments against Connacht in the Celtic Cup last week.

Mentally it will be a test for the prospect but hopefully the setback will merely strengthen his desire to make it as a pro – and time is on his side.

But one prospect's misfortune is another's opportunity given the crowded nature of the Dragons' back row.

Ben Fry (pictured above), a tough, abrasive back rower, has made a solitary regional appearance, having the honour of being put over by a piece of Gavin Henson magic against minnows Timisoara, but can change that.

Max Williams was ahead of Basham and Greggains after featuring eight times for Bernard Jackman in 2017/18.

Injury hindered his progress and limited him to four games last year but the athletic lock/back row forward provides boss Dean Ryan with an interesting Aaron Shingler, James King, Josh Turnbull style option.

Young Greggains has to wait for his breakthrough campaign but other young prospects have to grasp their chances to climb the pecking order in the Dragons' most competitive area.