THE case of the ugly Elton Moncrieff drop goal shows that miracles really can happen in Europe.

Gloucester’s qualification hopes were in the balance when they trailed 27-25 in the closing stages of a Heineken Cup pool match with Llanelli in January, 2001.

Hammering away at the line it seemed that there was no way through until their Kiwi scrum-half tried an awful drop goal that bounced off Daffyd Jones and subsequently looped over the sticks.

"I didn't hit it very well at all,” said Moncrieff. "After it went over, I just stood there laughing for a bit.”

Llanelli weren’t chuckling. Nor were the west Walians amused the following year when Tim Stimpson boomed over a penalty via both the left post and the crossbar to burgle a semi-final win for Leicester.

The list of the unlikely is a lengthy one in European rugby, so the Dragons have to keep their fingers crossed on Saturday.

It’s not necessarily a Challenge Cup finale at Rodney Parade this weekend but the likelihood is that they will fail to make it a third quarter-final in four years.

That will be even more galling when the Dragons’ hospital ward is sparser on the weekend of March 29 when Bernard Jackman would have the chance of fielding a side featuring Zane Kirchner, Hallam Amos, Tyler Morgan, Ollie Griffiths, Harri Keddie, Lewis Evans…

The Challenge Cup is maligned by many but I am sure that I’m not alone in finding it more fun than the Guinness PRO14.

The majority of the Dragons’ best moments have come in the second tier of Europe and they have wasted a chance to add to the list… or maybe, just maybe, they will surprise us.

My head nearly exploded when working out the various scenarios that would see them joining Cardiff Blues in the last eight and in truth it’s likely that they will all be in the bin at Rodney Parade.

The first thing that the Dragons need to do is win with a bonus point and deny Bordeaux-Begles anything at all. If, and a 5-0 is a huge if, they manage that they a bit of help elsewhere is needed.

Moncrieff’s wobbler shows that anything can happen but in all probability we will be left lamenting missed chances yet again in what is a group they should have emerged from.

They were handed a pretty nice draw and a win away at Enisei-STM should have left them in really good shape to make the quarters with a trio of home successes.

Every little helps whether it be in Champions or Challenge Cup, something that will probably hit the Rodney Parade region once again.

Last year it was a costly loss in Krasnodar then a failure to beat Worcester with a bonus that meant they headed to Brive needing to not only win but deny their hosts a consolation. They didn’t.

This season the Dragons have plenty more if-only moments after five rounds of Pool One.

The opener in Newcastle could have been a five-pointer but a consolation bonus should have been a good start, especially when they followed up with a four-try win in Russia the following weekend.

But in December it went wrong with failure to get a bonus-point win against Enisei in Newport and then a narrow defeat to the Falcons.

Referee Mike Adamson infuriated Bernard Jackman by not giving a penalty try in the closing stages (or a scrum penalty with the clock in the red) but the Dragons are left to rue a decision to go for the corner rather than the posts when two points down.

It was that loss that left them realistically needing to avoid defeat at Bordeaux-Begles and it was a game that was within their grasp only for chances to be missed either side of half-time with the score at 16-8, Jared Rosser dropping a pass with the line at his mercy then yet another call to go for the corner rather than three points.

Results in other groups have fallen their way to ensure that their Euro hopes are on life support but one fears that the switch will be flicked, if not at Rodney Parade then elsewhere.

That will mean that the season drifts a little, even if we are told that there is plenty to play for (contracts, pecking order, pride, ending hoodoos).

A Euro quarter-final would provide focus and a tangible sign of things being on the right track, plus it wouldn’t be mission impossible heading to Gloucester (again), Pau (again), Newcastle (again) or familiar foes Edinburgh and Connacht.

Cause an upset in that game and they could even have had a semi-final in Newport, an occasion to rival County’s dates with Leeds and Tottenham.

I firmly believe the Dragons can beat Bordeaux but fear they won’t get their miracle in a campaign when they really shouldn’t have needed one.

South Wales Argus:

THE British & Irish Cup ends for Gwent with something of a whimper on Saturday when London Scottish head to Bedwas for a fixture that clashes with the Dragons’ European Challenge Cup game.

The cross-border competition is being scrapped after rather losing its way since the first season in 2009/10.

The opening weekend of the tournament provided what is still one of the best moments that I have had the privilege of covering – Newport beating Rob Baxter’s then unbeaten Exeter.

The Black and Ambers produced a brilliant campaign in which they also beat Leinster A at Donnybrook and it was only a top Cornish Pirates side that denied them a semi-final place after a tough battle in Camborne.

That was a cracking Newport team and just as well given that the following year they hosted a Leinster side featuring Jack McGrath, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney and Andrew Conway along with Argentina international Mariano Galarza Then in 2011/12 Cross Keys had their magic moment with a semi-final win against the Pirates before being overpowered by Munster in Cork.

But the competition then lost its way with all Welsh Premiership sides entering and finding the gap was too big.

Newport lost 93-0 to Newcastle, Bedwas were dismantled at Bedford and raft of one-sided encounters saw it going back to four, one from each region, only for the competition to lose some of its charm when the Scots were the first to get fed up and quit in 2014.

The parachuting in of academy players placed at other Premiership clubs didn’t sit well so things naturally moved towards the regions taking ownership of the competition. Frankly, it was the only way.

The BIC has remained valuable in terms of giving burgeoning professionals a taste of a level of rugby higher than the Premiership but it’s run its course.

Finding a better vehicle for developing the young talent on the books is vital – with A team fixtures against Celtic rivals likely – but those first few years of the often-criticised cross-border competition provided some tremendous memories at Rodney Parade and Pandy Park.