THE Dragons could seal a place in the last 16 of the European Challenge Cup on Saturday – but they want more than that.

Last season showed the importance of home advantage in knockout rugby when the Rodney Parade club fluffed their lines against the Lions in Ystrad Mynach.

Had they won then they would have hosted Racing 92, who lost to the South Africans, but instead they travelled to Glasgow in the last 16 and got tonked 73-33.

Dai Flanagan’s side are on a good run of form in Newport after wins against the Ospreys, Oyonnax and the Scarlets.

They will attempt to make it four on the spin on home soil – something they haven’t done since 2019/20 when they chalked up five against Worcester, the Scarlets, Ospreys Enisei-STM and the Cheetahs – when they finish the group stages against the Sharks a week on Sunday.

The Dragons will know what they need to do by then as it is the final fixture in the three Challenge Cup pools.

The last Champions Cup game, Bayonne against Exeter, takes place at the same time so the identities of the top-tier teams dropping down will also be clear.

Here is how qualification works and the current state of play, with the Dragons probably needing a pair of wins for home advantage…

South Wales Argus: RELIEF: The Dragons celebrate Rio Dyer's try to clinch victory against OyonnaxRELIEF: The Dragons celebrate Rio Dyer's try to clinch victory against Oyonnax (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


This is pretty simple – the Challenge Cup is split into three six-team groups with the top four progressing to the last 16.

If teams are level on match points then the deciding factors are points difference then tries scored then disciplinary record. If still equal then lots are drawn.


The Dragons would have had one foot in the last 16 if they had held on against Pau with the clock in the red.

A try earned victory for the Top 14 play-off hopefuls but Flanagan’s men are still in good shape after after beating Oyonnax with a late bonus and then claiming a match point in France.

South Wales Argus: Pool One of the Challenge CupPool One of the Challenge Cup (Image: EPCR)

Win in Parma against Zebre and the Dragons could end the weekend with knockout rugby guaranteed.

Lose and they could drop out of the top four, or at least be in need of victory against the Sharks on final weekend. Defeat would also be a crushing blow in their bid for a home tie in the last 16.

The other round three fixtures see Oyonnax heading to Kings Park to face the Sharks on Saturday afternoon then the Cheetahs host Pau in Amsterdam on Sunday.

Round four sees Pau entertain Zebre and Oyonnax hosting the Cheetahs on Saturday, January 20.


Clubs are ranked from 1 to 16 firstly by ranking in their pool and then the number of match points accumulated (eg, second in Pool Two would be ranked above third in Pool One even if they totted up fewer match points).

The pool winners and second-placed clubs from the Challenge Cup get home advantage for the last 16 along with the two third-placed clubs with the best record.

The teams dropping down from the Champions Cup are ranked nine to 12, the other third-placed side is 13 and then the fourth-placed clubs are ranked 14 to 16.

The Round of 16 will be played over one match: 1 v 16, 2 v 15, 3 v 14, 4 v 13, 5 v 12, 6 v 11, 7 v 10, 8 v 9.


Every point matters in the Challenge Cup because the rankings determine the venue all the way to the final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday, May 24.

Clubs with higher rankings from the group stages get home advantage for the quarter-finals and semi-finals.

That last eight will put the winner of 1 v 16 against 8 v 9 and so on.