THE Dragons’ European fate is in the hands of others after a six-try Challenge Cup hammering by Castres.

The 2018 French champions romped to a 42-14 victory at the Stade Pierre-Fabre to takeover at the top of Pool One.

Castres did the damage with three scores in the first half and then finished off in the second with three more, meaning Jared Rosser’s excellent brace merely reduced the damage.

The Frenchmen completely overpowered the Dragons to put a big dent in the visitors’ points difference, which could well turn out to be crucial in the scramble for the quarter-finals.

The result means that Castres, who are in danger of a Top 14 relegation scrap, will secure the group victory if they beat Worcester at Sixways on Friday.

The Dragons will overtake them – and stay above the Warriors – if they do the job professionally against Enisei-STM it’s a home win in the West Midlands.

Even if it’s a French win then there is still a chance that the region will make the last eight as one of three best runners-up.

They now need Leicester to beat Cardiff Blues tomorrow and to edge out Pau, who can get to the Dragons’ expected tally of 20 points to make it a points difference battle.

Whatever happens, Dean Ryan’s men need to fill their boots against Enisei-STM in Newport, and they will need to be far more cutthroat than they were in France.

They played fast and loose from the off in perfect conditions but lacked the accuracy and patience required to crack the home defence.

The Dragons headed to Castres hunting a fourth win on French soil and injury problems meant a success would arguably eclipse those in Bayonne (2007), Stade Francais (2014) and Pau (2015).

They fielded fly-half Jacob Botica at full-back, his first professional start, and tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother at loosehead.

There was rapid youth on the wings in Rio Dyer and Jared Rosser while the tight five replacements – 21-year-old props Josh Reynolds and Chris Coleman, 22-year-old hooker Ellis Shipp and 21-year-old lock Max Williams – were extremely raw for an encounter with hefty hosts.

In the festive derbies the Dragons stayed in the fight before sneaking the spoils against the Scarlets and Ospreys late on.

This time there was pressure on the starters to earn something to hold on to, but instead they had to play catch-up.

The Dragons started strongly and opted to kick a pair of early penalties to the corner only for Castres to conjure a timely steal.

From there the Dragons conceded two penalties to be taken down to the other 22, where the first try was scored.

Castres hammered away with the big units before an offload released fly-half Thomas Fortunel, who sidestepped last man Botica.

Full-back Julien Dumora added the conversion and repeated the trick in the 12 minute when flanker Anthony Jelonch raced over after a powerful run and chip down the right by big wing Filipo Nakosi.

The Dragons were already staring down the barrel at 14-0 down… and it became 21-0 after 24 minutes.

More indiscipline led to pressure in the 22, then a five-metre scrum after former France scrum-half Rory Kockott was held up over the line.

A free-kick was followed by a charge at the line by big number eight Alex Tulou and then a successful one by even bigger tighthead Wilfrid Hounkpatin.

The Dragons should have struck back quickly for their first try of the afternoon only for scrum-half Tavis Knoyle to loose his footing after being given an inside ball following a big burst by centre Tom Griffiths.

Pressure in the Castres 22 was not being converted into tries with too many handling errors, despite the glorious conditions.

The Dragons held onto the ball impressively in the 34th minute but sadly Castres wing Taylor Paris was on the ball to tackle opposite number Jared Rosser into touch five metres out.

It was a theme as half-time approached – the Dragons hammering away in the 22 but then getting too loose after being denied.

Chances came and went, leaving them 21-0 down at half-time and in need of a miracle to earn any sort of consolation.

Instead it was Castres that struck soon after the restart to secure their bonus after the Dragons’ defence was shredded by full-back Dumora from a grubber through.

He strolled into the visitors’ half and Nakosi gave centre Thomas Combezou a run-in for 28-0.

Try number five followed with half an hour left when a lineout drive was followed by the ball being whipped left for Dumora to stroll over before adding his fifth conversion.

Castres were hunting a sixth after 65 minutes… and the attack ended with the Dragons getting off the mark.

A loose ball was claimed by wing Jared Rosser and he put in a peach of a spiral ahead from his 22, hacked on himself and then won the race to the loose ball. Davies converted to make it 35-7.

Alas, it didn’t signal a swing to the Dragons and Castres muscled their way over for a sixth from a lineout drive to make it 42-7, hooker Kevin Firmin rewarded for hitting his man.

However, the region had the final say thanks to a second wonderful Rosser finish.

The winger was given too much work to do wide on the right but somehow went over thanks to a hand-off and a stretch.

Davies added the conversion from wide on the right, a classy end to a very testing afternoon.

Castres: J Dumora, F Nakosi, T Combezou, Y David, T Paris, T Fortunel, R Kockott; M Tierney, J Jenneker, W Hounkpatin, L Jacquet, V Moreaux, B Delaporte (captain), A Tulou, A Jelonch. Replacements: K Firmin, W de Benedittis, K Wihongi, C Samson, C Gerondeau, L Radosavljevic, F Vialelle, M Laveau.

Scorers: tries – T Fortunel, A Jelonch, W Hounkpatin, T Combezou, J Dumora, K Firmin; conversions – J Dumora (6)

Dragons: J Botica (C Penny 65), J Rosser, T Griffiths, J Dixon, R Dyer, S Davies, T Knoyle (R Williams 52), L Fairbrother (J Reynolds 65), E Dee, L Brown, J Davies (H Keddie 58), M Screech, C Hill (captain), T Basham, R Moriarty.

Scorers: tries – J Rosser (2); conversions – S Davies (2)

Referee: JP Doyle (England)

Attendance: 8,273

Argus star man: Ross Moriarty