Dragons defeated after dramatic Euro finale
Max Clark saw a dramatic last-minute try disallowed as Dragons crashed to a disappointing 27-21 defeat to Section Paloise in the EPCR Challenge Cup at an ice-cold Rodney Parade.
The Men of Gwent thought they had snatched a late win when the centre crashed over in the final minute – only for the try to be chalked off by the TMO.
Earlier hooker Bradley Roberts had grabbed a try double in vain as disappointing Dragons were dealt a blow by the Top 14 side.
Dragons made two changes to the starting line-up that drew with Emirates Lions in the European opener, with wing Rio Dyer and back row Aaron Wainwright handed starts.
Home hooker Roberts was quickly into his work with two bustling carries before a penalty allowed Sam Davies to open the scoring on three minutes.
Joe Davies stole early Pau ball at the lineout to disrupt the French visitors before Pau had a try disallowed for offside after wing Eoghan Barrett collected a chip and raced around the final man.
Pau were kicking into space at every opportunity and threatened again as the forwards bulldozed up close to the line to win a penalty that scrum half Clovis Lebail slotted.
Dragons countered with Jordan Williams and Roberts showing neat handling to force a second penalty for Davies to nudge over.
The playmaker added another three just before the halfway point of the first period as the home side looked to build a score in chilly conditions.
Dyer flew high to claim a high up and under as the game descended into a kicking battle as both teams looked for territory as temperatures plunged.
Hewitt took another high kick under pressure and a penalty for not rolling away allowed Dragons to march into Pau territory.
A powerful driving maul was stopped short, but patient Dragons kept the pressure up as Chris Coleman and Jack Dixon were just stopped short before Roberts crashed over.
Pau hit back with Thomas Carol going over after Dragons were guilty of falling of numerous tackles in the build-up.
The French side had their tails up and attacked again at pace before the break and made it a one-point game when Lebail slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Lebail missed long range kick from inside his own half at start of second half before Ross Moriarty was introduced to try and fire up Dragons.
Rhodri Williams tore down the shortside and skipped past men to spark an attack while Roberts and Screech powered towards the line before a penalty halted a rare home attack.
JJ Hanrahan and Max Clark were thrown on and it was Clark who stopped Barrett from breaking clear with a superb tap tackle as the Pau wing looked to blaze away.
A penalty for taking the man in the air have Pau the chance to kick to the corner and the French side scored as replacement Elliot Roudil went over for a 20-14 lead.
Dragons needed a response and got it within four minutes as they kicked to the corner and drove over with Roberts the man to dot down.
The game continued to flow from end to end as Pau grabbed a third as Eoghan Barrett collected a cross-field kick to dot down.
Dyer burst into space to ignite comeback hopes before Lewis Jones hacked ahead and forced Dan Robson to dot down behind his own line.
A scrum penalty allowed Hanrahan to kick to the corner and a series of further penalties saw Dragons smash up close and Pau reduced to 14 men before Clark burst for the line.
The try was originally awarded only for the TMO to rule against the home side who had one final roll of the dice but lost possession to spark Pau celebrations.
03m Davies p 3-0
13m Lebail p 3-3
16m Davies p 6-3
19m Davies p 9-3
28m Roberts t 14-3
33m Carol t Lebail c 14-10
39m Lebail p 14-13
58m Roudil t Lebail c 14-20
62m Roberts t Hanrahan c 21-20
66m Barrett t Debaes c 21-27
Dragons RFC: Jordan Williams, Rio Dyer, Sio Tomkinson, Jack Dixon (Clark 53), Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies (Hanrahan 53), Rhodri Williams (Jones 71); Rhodri Jones (Evans 68), Bradley Roberts, Chris Coleman (Fairbrother 59), Joe Davies, Matthew Screech, Sean Lonsdale (Woodman 71), Harri Keddie, Aaron Wainwright (Moriarty 48)
Replacements: Brodie Coghlan, Rob Evans, Lloyd Fairbrother, Ryan Woodman, Ross Moriarty, Lewis Jones, JJ Hanrahan, Max Clark
Section Paloise: Mathias Colombet, Thomas Carol, Nathan Decron, Jale Vatubua, Eoghan Barrett, Thibault Debaes, Clovis Lebail; Rémi Seneca, Youri Delhommel, Nicolas Corato, Hugo Auradou, Jimi Maximin, Martin Puech, Thibaut Hamonou, Brent Liufau.
Replacements: Romain Ruffenach, Siegfried Fisiihoi, Maks van Dyk, Fabrice Metz, Sacha Zegueur, Dan Robson, Elliot Roudil, Grégoire Arfeuil
Referee: Jack Makepeace (Eng)