9:02am Saturday 22nd March 2014
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons boss Lyn Jones has called on his side to set up a Scarlets showdown by hitting a rich vein of form in the final furlong of the RaboDirect Pro12.
The region take on Connacht at Rodney Parade tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 3.05pm) in a game that will have huge implications for who finishes sixth, a position that would secure qualification for the proposed new frontline European tournament.
The Scarlets, who take on playoff-chasing Glasgow in Scotland tomorrow, currently sit in that spot but are being chased hard by the Dragons, Edinburgh and Connacht.
The west Walians have played one game more than Jones' men but enjoy an eight-point lead and have a favourable run-in that pits them against teams in the bottom half of the table.
That leaves the Rodney Parade region with little margin for error – meaning that tomorrow's clash becomes a must-win.
"The Scarlets are sitting just above us," said director of rugby Jones. "We need to target them, push them, challenge them and try to get above them.
"We play them in the last but one fixture of the season (in Llanelli on the first weekend of May), so we'd like to build that into a winner-takes-all.
"We appreciate how difficult that is because the Scarlets have a decent run-in and have strung some decent performances together of late, but that is our target and the boys are focused."
The Dragons enjoyed a superb 24-23 win against Glasgow in their last Rodney Parade fixture and have a good record against Connacht in Newport, winning eight of 10 encounters.
But Pat Lam's men have turned things around after a shaky start to the season and head to Wales on the back of triumphs against Edinburgh, Zebre and Treviso.
"Connacht have really come on since Christmas," said Jones. "Their set piece is operating well and they have scored a number of tries thanks to their maul and scrum.
"It is a massive challenge for us to stop that and to get them to open up and play some expansive rugby."
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