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However, December saw a new competition for the team with the return of the Heineken Cup and the return of The Dragons international players. The team faced French giants Perpignan in back-to-back matches and just before the match at Rodney Parade lost influential captain Jason Forster as he was struck down with an appendicitis. However, the Rodney Parade fortress factor came to the fore as The Dragons tore into Perpignan and clinched a bonus point win. Seven days later the squad travelled to the south of France in buoyant mood, however, in the bear pit of the Stade Aime Giral they leaked 21 points in the opening twenty minutes which put Perpignan well on their way to the win.

The festive period saw local Welsh rivalries resurrected with the Blues visiting Rodney Parade in front of a packed house. With not much Christmas pleasantries exchanged and in a closely fought match The Dragons held on for the win. New Years Day saw a trip west for The Dragons to Stradey Park with The Dragons showing no after effects from New Years Eve starting brightly and taking the game to the Scarlets, however, an interception saw Matthew J Watkins race away for a try, followed in quick succession by another. Michael Owen scored in the second half to give the lead back to The Dragons but with minutes to go Sione Tuipulotu was sent to the sin bin and the Scarlets clinched the wining try meaning 2005 did not get off to the best of starts for The Dragons.

January and there were still Heineken Cup quarter final places to be decided and The Dragons were in with a strong chance of qualification for the knock out stages. First up was Edinburgh at home and a comfortable victory to the home side by 48 points to 5. The following week there was a trip north to Newcastle for The Dragons and they were the only Welsh Region still in with a chance of qualification for the quarter finals. The opening minutes saw The Dragons lose captain Jason Forster to an eye injury and in a close match Newcastle always had the advantage and dominance, which eventually told as they ran out winners consigning The Dragons to their exit from the Heineken Cup.

The second half of the season never really saw The Dragons recover from their Heineken Cup exit but they did record a home win over Glasgow in mid January. The Six Nations saw eight members of The Dragons called up to the national squad and they had to face Leinster during this period who incidentally were allowed to play their Irish squad players and The Dragons suffered a heavy 55-3 loss. There were home victories over Ulster and the Borders before losses to the Ospreys, Munster and Edinburgh. In the final Celtic League match against Connacht The Dragons knew if they were to have a home draw in the Celtic Cup then they had to secure a bonus point win. The win secured them fourth place in the table and with qualification for the Heineken Cup as well as the home draw against the Scarlets.

The Celtic Cup and a Welsh derby and after all talk of the chance for silverware, on the night it was the Scarlets who looked the hungrier as The Dragons suffered their fourth loss at home of the season and a premature exit from the competition.

The 2005 pre season saw another new coach installed at the helm with Paul Turner announced as head coach with Leigh Jones remaining assistant coach and Dai Rees skills coach. Jason Forster remains captain to the Region with Michael Owen and Ceri Sweeney vice captains. On the recruitment front The Dragons signed four players David Maddocks and Bryn Griffiths from the Scarlets, Leigh Hinton from Bedford and Andrew Hall from Glasgow. There was also restructuring behind the scenes over the summer with the departure of Chief Executive Andy Marinos. Jim McCreedy is in charge of all rugby matters with Gethin Jenkins responsible for the Commercial activity and Sue Hamilton overseeing all financial issues.

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Friday December 21

Cardiff Blues


Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff

KO 7:35 PM

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