THE Dragons ‘did it the hard way’ when qualifying for the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup last season but home slip-ups proved to be costly.

The Rodney Parade club started the 2022/23 European campaign in South Africa when they took three points from an entertaining draw with the Lions.

They failed to back that up when they fluffed their lines against Pau in Newport when beaten 27-21.

Playing with penalty advantage, Max Clark thought he had scored with the clock in the red only for TMO footage to show he was inches short.

The Dragons opted for a scrum, Ross Moriarty carried hard and then Sio Tomkinson dropped a simple pass with the line at his mercy.

Dai Flanagan’s side breathed life back into the campaign with a win in Pau but then suffered another home disappointment against the Lions.

In a game shifted to Ystrad Mynach because of a frozen Rodney Parade pitch, the Dragons paid the price for a shocking start and came up short.

That meant they went on their travels in the last 16 rather than hosting, and they subsequently set a new club record for points conceded when hammered 73-33 by Glasgow.

The Dragons kick of this season’s edition with a fixture against Oyonnax in Newport and it’s pretty much must-win if they are to have hopes of a knockout tie on home soil.

They head into the opener as the bottom club in the United Rugby Championship after just one win from seven games.

South Wales Argus: DESPAIR: Elliot Dee after the Dragons' heavy loss to Glasgow in the European Challenge CupDESPAIR: Elliot Dee after the Dragons' heavy loss to Glasgow in the European Challenge Cup (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“It's a fresh competition. In the last few years we have managed to make the knockout stages and that is something we are trying to emulate,” said forwards coach Luke Narraway.

“That starts with your home form and last year we did it the hard way. We drew and got three points from the Lions away and then slipped up against Pau at home.

“That was a costly slip-up and in European rugby it is very difficult to progress if you don’t win your home games. We would love a last 16 or quarter-final at Rodney Parade.”

The Dragons host Oyonnax, travel to Pau seven days later, go to Zebre Parma in January then finish against the Sharks at Rodney Parade.

The top four of the six-team group, which also contains the Cheetahs, qualify for the last 16.