THE Dragons suffered a double blow last weekend that leaves them needing to avoid a pointless European Challenge Cup clash with the Sharks on Sunday.

Dai Flanagan’s fate remains in their own hands for qualification for the last 16 but things have got tougher.

The Dragons suffered a 20-17 defeat to Zebre in Parma last Saturday then Pau beat the Cheetahs in Amsterdam on Sunday.

That led to the Rodney Parade side slipping to fifth in the six-team Pool One with the top four progressing to the knockout stage.

There are a number of scenarios but the one certainty is that the Dragons cannot fail to bag a match point on Sunday (kick-off 5.30pm).

The good news is that they will know exactly what is needed by the time they kick off against the South Africans, who are motivated by securing Durban ties in the knockout stages.

South Wales Argus: How things standHow things stand (Image: EPCR)


The Sharks are setting the pace on 12 points and have already qualified (both Zebre and Parma are four back and play each other), but any win in Newport would secure top spot and home advantage through to at least the quarter-finals, and potentially last four.

The Cheetahs are second on nine points while Zebre and Pau are on eight with the Dragons a point back.

Oyonnax, who are concentrating on the Top 14, only have one point and have been eliminated.


Pau v Zebre (Saturday, 1pm), Oyonnax v Cheetahs (Saturday, 3.15pm), Dragons v Sharks (Sunday, 5.30pm).


The top four qualify and the placings are decided by match points, then points difference, then tries scored, then disciplinary record and if still level lots are drawn.

When it comes to the seedings, the three group winners are ranked 1 to 3 and second 3 to 6, then the top two third-placed clubs are 7 and 8 so also get home advantage.

Four Champions Cup sides drop down to be 9 to 12, then the remaining third-placed club is 13 and the sides in fourth are 14 to 16.

South Wales Argus: CLINCHER: The Dragons could do with a repeat of their win against OyonnaxCLINCHER: The Dragons could do with a repeat of their win against Oyonnax (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The beauty is that the Dragons play last so head into the game knowing the exact situation rather than having to wait to watch events in France…

WIN: If the Dragons win then they are guaranteed to have knockout European rugby.

Zebre and Parma face each other and even if they have a high-scoring draw (both bagging three match points) then Flanagan's men would leapfrog them both courtesy of match points.

DRAW: If the Dragons draw then they will leapfrog either Zebre or Pau if one of them only claims one match point.

LOSE WITH BONUS: If the Dragons lose then they need at least a bonus point to stand a chance of qualifying.

By kick-off they will know the state of play but ideally either Zebre or Pau will win and deny their opponents something.

That would leave the Dragons going through with either a losing bonus or a four-try bonus as long as they don't get hammered to keep their points difference healthy.


South Wales Argus: The Dragons could still host a European knockout tie at Rodney Parade, but it's unlikelyThe Dragons could still host a European knockout tie at Rodney Parade, but it's unlikely (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


It's still possible that the Dragons could earn a home tie in the last 16, but they need a win and for things to go their way elsewhere.

They won't climb above the Sharks unless it's a drubbing while the Cheetahs will fancy their chances of beating an Oyonnax side who are already out.

If Zebre or Pau win without a bonus then a five-point haul would see the Dragons leapfrog them.

Finishing third on 12 points would probably be enough for seventh or eighth seeding and a Rodney Parade tie in the last 16.

All will be clear by Saturday night, then it's over to the Dragons to get the job done.