THE Dragons will aim to use the European Challenge Cup as a launchpad for their season after more frustration against the Lions.

The Rodney Parade club missed a golden opportunity to respond to a 69-14 hammering by the Sharks in the second round of their South African double-header in the United Rugby Championship.

The Lions were reduced to 14 men after 25 minutes when Ruben Schoeman was red-carded for clattering Ashton Hewitt with an attempted charge down but the Dragons botched chances galore.

Dai Flanagan’s side should have at least bagged a four-try bonus point yet it was a pointless trip to Ellis Park after a 49-24 defeat.

The Dragons, who prop up the URC, now start their Challenge Cup campaign with a home fixture against an Oyonnax side sitting 11th in the Top 14 and likely to be concentrating on avoiding relegation.

With trips to Pau and Zebre to come along with a Rodney Parade date with the Sharks, Flanagan’s side really need to get off to a winning start in Europe.

South Wales Argus: The Dragons in their defeat to the Lions at Ellis ParkThe Dragons in their defeat to the Lions at Ellis Park (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“Europe has always been something we have targeted and hopefully this will give us an opportunity to get some momentum going into the Christmas derby games,” said captain Steff Hughes, with a Boxing Day trip to Cardiff and New Year’s Day home fixture against the Scarlets.

“Our attack has been good at times in South Africa; we’ve had the mindset to try and move the ball and it’s something we will continue to work hard on.

“We won’t be playing in the same conditions, it will be a lot colder, so we will have to adjust to the weather and Oyonnax. We’ll back ourselves in attack, we just need to be more accurate.”

The Dragons scored tries through flanker Harri Keddie, wing Hewitt and hooker Bradley Roberts but bombed plenty of chances and also gifted the Lions scores on the counter.

South Wales Argus: Aaron Wainwright spreads play for the Dragons at the LionsAaron Wainwright spreads play for the Dragons at the Lions (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“It’s really disappointing,” admitted Hughes. “There were aspects of that game that were good, especially in attack in the first half.

“We got ourselves back into a position to compete around 60 minutes [at 35-24], but we just weren’t accurate enough and gave them too many easy ins.

“It’s easy tries that we should have avoided - it is really frustrating. It’s not through a lack of effort, that is always there with this group, but we are a bit desperate to try and score and move the ball. “We make errors that give teams easy opportunities to get out. They scored three or four breakaway tries that came from our errors. We need to be more accurate to avoid that.”

The Dragons will hope to be boosted by the return of some key figures that did not travel to South Africa because of niggles.

Wales hooker Elliot Dee and tighthead Leon Brown have been nursing rib and calf injuries respectively while Argentina scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou is yet to feature for his club this season after World Cup duty and then a knock in training.

Dan Lydiate is on the comeback trail from a rib injury and will target the festive derbies while his fellow Wales flanker Taine Basham finishes his three-game suspension on Saturday.