THE Dragons need a French double in the New Year if they are to earn an away quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup after being downed by Newcastle at Rodney Parade.

The Falcons, who have two games left against Russian minnows Enisei-STM, will win Pool One after making it four wins from four with a 27-25 success.

There was late drama as the Dragons turned down a shot at goal with four minutes left in favour of attempting to muscle over for a fourth try with their impressive driving lineout, which had been used for a brace by hooker Elliot Dee.

Alas, it went wrong and the hosts had to settle for a losing bonus point after not quite having the composure to work into position for a Gavin Henson drop goal from the last play.

The narrow defeat means that the Dragons must now take the spoils against Bordeaux-Begles at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in January before repeating the trick in Newport the following weekend, that haul should be likely to be enough to earn one of three best runners-up spots in the quarters.

It’s certainly not mission impossible against a side that sneaked past the Russians 36-27 but it would be quite an achievement after the frustration of failing to put one foot in the quarters against the Falcons.

Jackman named his strongest possible side, which mean recalls for his Wales trio of lock Cory Hill, hooker Elliot Dee and full-back Hallam Amos plus fly-half Gavin Henson.

Back to back wins against Enisei had put the Dragons in good position for a push for the last eight, albeit they had made life a little more difficult by failing to get a bonus in the Newport encounter with the Russians.

And they certainly made life difficult for themselves after a disastrous opening in which a quickfire brace earned the Falcons a 14-0 lead.

Some sloppy, passive defending allowed Newcastle number eight Ryan Burrows and centre Josh Matavesi to burst through before the visitors were held up over the line. The forwards carried hard from the resulting five-metre scrum before wing Adam Radwan was worked over.

Hodgson converted superbly from the left touchline and was soon adding two more points after Henson was charged down for the other winger Zach Kibirige to go over.

The Dragons needed to respond and thankfully they did through a familiar weapon.

A penalty in the 22 was kicked to the corner and the forwards did the rest, hooker Dee hitting Hill from the lineout before going over for his sixth try of a terrific season.

More of the same was needed and more of the same was what we got.

A big scrum earned a penalty that Henson boomed from halfway to within five before Dee repeated the trick down the right.

The fly-half made it 14-14 after 22 minutes and then traded penalties with Hodgson before another Dragons disaster.

Amos failed to make touch from a mark, the defence of the (very good) counter was poor and flanker Gary Graham galloped under the posts for a converted try.

It stayed at 24-17 going into the second half and it was a two-point game with half an hour left after a third try from a driving lineout, this time a botched one.

Dee hit Hill but the ball squirmed out the back only for Henson to fling the ball to the right where Amos drew in two defenders before offloading smartly for wing Ashton Hewitt to dart over.

The fly-half was wide with the conversion but made no mistake from the tee to earn a 25-24 lead on the hour only for Hodgson to respond on 65 minutes when Hill failed to roll away.

Newcastle had a chance to put the game to bed when they kicked penalties to the corner but the Dragons escaped to stay alive as the clock ticked into the 70s.

It was then the Falcons’ turn to escape when the Dragons put the squeeze on with a driving lineout to earn another penalty – and rather than kick for the lead they went to the corner only to lose the ball.

Now they have no margin for error if they are to make the last eight, while they must channel their frustration to end their long derby drought in home encounters with Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys over the festive period.

Dragons: H Amos, J Rosser (P Howard 57), A Warren, J Dixon, A Hewitt, G Henson, D Babos, S Hobbs (T Davies 59), E Dee, L Fairbrother, J Davies (R Landman 69), C Hill (captain), A Wainwright, B Roach (J Sheekey 69), J Benjamin.

Scorers: tries – E Dee (2), A Hewitt; conversions – G Henson (2); penalties – G Henson (2)

Newcastle: S Hammersley (C Willis 61), Z Kibirige, T Penny (C Wilson 69), J Matavesi, A Radwan, J Hodgson, S Stuart (M Young 57), S Lockwood (R Vickers 57), B Sowrey (J Blamire ), S Wilson (T Davison 59), W Witty, S Robinson, M Wilson (captain), G Graham, R Burrows.

Scorers: tries – A Radwan, Z Kibirige, G Graham; conversions – J Hodgson (3); penalties – J Hodgson (2)

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

Attendance: 3,949

Argus star man: Lloyd Fairbrother