BOSS Lyn Jones insists that Newport Gwent Dragons have "bottomed out" and has pledged that the region won't be basement battlers next season, writes Chris Kirwan.
Last Friday's 34-23 defeat to the Scarlets in Llanelli means that the Dragons will yet again be ranked as Wales' worst region and the highest they can finish is ninth in the RaboDirect Pro12.
They need a home win from their finale against bottom club Treviso on Saturday evening to avoid a repeat of last season's disastrous 11th-placed finish.
Even if they sign off with a victory the mood at Rodney Parade will not be as exuberant as it was on Boxing Day when a success against Cardiff Blues earned a place in the top half of the table, with it looking inevitable that they would finish above the team from the capital.
Alas, the Blues have rallied in 2014 while the Dragons have been shocking, earning a meagre tally of 7 points from a possible 50 with just one win from ten fixtures.
Director of rugby Jones said: "We will finish 9th, 10th or 11th and people will say that it's another dour year for us, but this season is a watershed. The whole thing will have bottomed out.
"We are moving this club forward and a lot of work has been done to clear the way for next year. The future for Gwent rugby is very bright.
"It's tough to take at the moment; nobody likes losing and nobody likes conceding 30 points but the future is exciting and we just have to take it on the chin.
"At the moment teams are getting the better of us and it's important they enjoy it, because that wont' happen forever."
Since suffering an embarrassing five-try 45-27 defeat to Treviso in northern Italy the Dragons have at least shown some fight in a pair of derby defeats to the Ospreys and Scarlets.
Jones said: "Treviso away was an embarrassment in the way that we gave up. I said that wouldn't happen again and fair play to the team, they have rallied and shown spirit."
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the loss in Llanelli was a tremendous display by full-back Hallam Amos, who made two superb line breaks and looked a real threat when counter-attacking.
The 19-year-old has been named in the Wales Under-20s squad for June's Junior World Championship in New Zealand but could yet be promoted to take on South Africa with Warren Gatland's seniors.
"We have given Hallam the freedom to do what he wants and he is an exciting talent," said Jones, who believes his full-back should continue his development against his peers Down Under given that Liam Williams is likely to start against the Springboks.
"Gwent rugby has to do its fair share of producing talent for Wales; Hallam has come through the Dragons academy and Monmouth School and is a shining light for what we need to do and next year there will be a few more coming through."