LOCK Joe Davies was the Dragons’ unlikely hero as they got their European Challenge Cup campaign off to a perfect start with a 24-7 victory against Oyonnax.

The importance of home games meant the opener at Rodney Parade was pretty much must-win and Dai Flanagan’s men did that, but made hard work of it.

The score was 7-7 going into the closing stages before lock Davies powered over from close range for his first Dragons try in his 120th appearance.

That was followed by a brace by Wales international Rio Dyer as what looked like a potentially costly two-point haul turned into an unlikely five-pointer.

It is a win that gives the Dragons a good shot at qualification with a trip to Pau next Saturday then a clash with Zebre in Parma in January, followed by a finale against the Sharks in Newport.

South Wales Argus: Elliot Dee on the chargeElliot Dee on the charge (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Flanagan’s men trailed 7-0 at the break after Oyonnax played with the wind at their backs but could only score one try through centre Leo Treilles.

The hosts levelled soon after the restart through wing Ashton Hewitt but they failed to put the foot down, hindered by errors and poor choices.

The Dragons looked like a side who had forgotten how to win after just one success in seven attempts in the United Rugby Championship.

Thankfully they got over the line late on, with the help of some flamboyant French play.

The Dragons started on the front foot but then had to defend manfully to deny the Top 14 side.

They had one massive defensive set in their 22, then had to scramble after a huge line break by New Zealand sevens ace Joe Ravouvou, then were saved by a foot in touch when wing Souleymane Coulibaly went over in the corner in the 13th minute.

The announce, caught out by Oyonnax being in black, excitedly declared that a try by Rio Dyer but the Dragons had enjoyed precious little territory or possession.

Another break and chip by Ravouvou led to a foot race but thankfully he was up against Wales international Dyer.

However, that led to a goalline drop-out and fly-half Will Reed put it dead, meaning the French side had a five-metre scrum in the 21st minute.

They powered away before working the ball right for centre Leo Treilles to score a try that fly-half Jules Soulan converted.

Reed repeated the error from the restart to gift Oyonnax a scrum, then a penalty that they booted towards the 22 to keep the pressure on with the wind at their backs.

The visitors were completely dominant but, like their hosts of late, lacked a killer touch to really press home their advantage with the conditions in their favour.

The Dragons escaped to at least finish the half in the middle third and while they didn’t threaten, they did eat the clock up.

A 7-0 deficit wasn’t a bad one given the wind but Flanagan’s side needed a low error count if they were to record a second win of the campaign.

South Wales Argus: LEVELLER: Ashton Hewitt goes over for the DragonsLEVELLER: Ashton Hewitt goes over for the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The Dragons were level-pegging in the 45th minute after a big clearance kick by Sio Tomkinson then good chase earned a central scrum inside the 22.

Fly-half Will Reed went left and flung a pass out for Hewitt to finish, then added the tricky extras.

However, the playmaker then endured two misses from the tee and it remained 7-7 into the final quarter.

The Dragons needed some composure and a massive kick from 22 to 22 by Steff Hughes presented them with a chance to strike.

They did with a move from the training ground but hooker Elliot Dee’s throw to Aaron Wainwright didn’t go five metres before he got it back.

Sio Tomkinson was forced off by a nasty injury to his left shoulder with 11 minutes to go and that meant a debut for Wales Under-20s centre Harri Ackerman, who turns 19 on Tuesday.

The Dragons looked low on confidence but got a helping hand from Oyonnax to hit the front with five minutes to go.

An awful clearance by full-back Maxime Salles allowed the hosts to go on the attack from close range and, after a quick tap penalty by Wainwright, Davies barged over.

That was followed by a Dyer breakaway from a Steff Hughes kick through to seal the win and then Oyonnax clocked off when 80 hit.

The Dragons had a scrum in their 22 but went the distance with ease and simple handling for their Wales international to coast over.

Reed converted to make it 24-7, but this was anything but easy.

Dragons: J Williams; Dyer, Tomkinson (Ackerman 68), S Hughes (captain), Hewitt (Baldwin 77); Reed, R Williams (Blacker 75); R Jones (Seiuli 65), Dee (Coghlan 75), Fairbrother (Coleman 65), J Davies (Lonsdale 75), Nott, Woodman, Keddie (Young 77), Wainwright.

Scorers: tries – Hewitt, Davies, Dyer (2) ; conversions – Reed (2).

Oyonnax scorer: try – Treilles; conversion – Soulan.

Referee: Eoghan Cross.

Attendance: 3,057.