Newport Gwent Dragons attempt to make history on Saturday as they seek to reach the semi-final of the EPCR Challenge Cup for the first time.
The last, and indeed only time the Dragons reached the semi-final stage of a European competition was the 2006/07 season, where they fell to Clermont 46 – 29.
If they want to reach the last four now they will have to overcome fellow Welsh team and arch-rivals Cardiff Blues. The two have been scrapping it out in the Pro12 for over a decade, so we are sure to have a heated encounter at Rodney Parade with high stakes on the line.
The Dragons hold a victory over the Blues this season, having beaten them at Arms Park, but lost the return fixture at home, so it truly is all to play for.
Dragons have battled hard to reach this stage, winning their last four matches in Pool 5 to ensure their progress by topping the table. In fact, they have lost just once on the way to the quarter finals, including two victories over Stade Francais and Bucharest Wolves, plus an away win against Newcastle Falcons.
They will have to do without giant lock forward Rynard Landman if they want to make the final four. The 28 year old South African was sent off in the game against Connacht in February and is serving a six week ban. He would also miss the semi-final date should the Dragons make it through.
Cardiff Blues also qualified for the last eight with a 5-1 record. They topped Pool 1, overcoming London Irish, Grenoble and Rugby Revigo Delta, with a particularly impressive 104 – 12 victory against the Italians.
Who will be the key players in the contest? Dragons will be hoping that Tom Prydie can have another good day with the boot, having accumulated 50 points so far in the Challenge Cup. Respective key kicker and Blues fly-half Gareth Anscombe will look to win the kicking battle for the Blues, having already scored 47 points in the tournament.
T Rhys Thomas scored four tries in Pool 5, so if he can get across the line again Dragons will be fancying their chances. Cardiff’s Richard Smith has scored one try more than Thomas, so Newport will look to extinguish his threat on Saturday.
What does the path look like to the final for either team? Well, it doesn't get any easier; the winner will be up against either London Irish or Edinburgh. And if they overcome that challenge, then one of Gloucester Rugby, Connacht, Exeter Chiefs or Newcastle Falcons await.
There have already been two Gilbert Derbies in the Challenge Cup this season, with both Newport and Newcastle winning a match apiece. A Dragons v Falcons rubber match could make for a very tasty final.
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