Newport-Gwent Dragons fell just short in France after a thrilling Heineken Cup encounter against Castres.
HEINEKEN CUP POOL ONE
Castres: (14) 29:
Tries: Romieu, Milford 2, Marticorena.
Cons: Marticorena 3.
Dragons: (3) 24:
Tries: Cooper, Wyatt 2.
Cons: Warlow 3.
Castres were in control up front and the pressure earned four tries through David Romieu, two from Laloaoa Milford and one from Laurent Marticorena.
But the Dragons hit back with three of their own, wing Gareth Wyatt claiming a brace and Gareth Cooper also crossing.
Although it was a defeat for the Welsh side, they earned a bonus point for the narrow loss that could prove vital.
The Castres pack stamped its early authority by outmuscling the Welsh eight in a rolling maul and sending hooker Romieu over the try line, Marticorena adding the conversion.
Former All Blacks props Kees Meeuws and Carl Hoeft form a formidable partnership in the Castres front row and the French side always had the upper hand up front.
The Dragons in contrast had relative rookies Rhys Thomas and David Maddocks, more used to the Welsh Premiership than Europe's top table.
But despite some creaking, the expected scrum capitulation at the Stade Pierre-Antoine did not materialise.
Thomas was also showing himself in the loose exchanges and the 23-year-old should have scored, only to spill the ball as he dived over the line.
A similar opportunity came and went for Cooper, and it was left to his half-back partner Craig Warlow to kick a penalty for the Dragons' sole first-half points.
That left it 14-3 at the break after Castres fly-half Yann Delaigue bewitched the Dragons defence to send wing Milford over.
Marticorena added a penalty soon after the restart and then a conversion, as Delaigue made the most of quick ball to send Milford cantering away for his second of the night.
The Dragons responded well and a series of breakouts first saw Wyatt tackled just short and then Cooper race over for a deserved try.
All the good work seemed to have been wasted, as Marticorena barged through some weak Welsh tackling for Castres' fourth try and a bonus point.
But Pontypridd pals Kevin Morgan and Wyatt combined twice in quick succession for two tries, both converted by Warlow, to bring the Dragons within five points.
First full-back Morgan made the space to send Wyatt jinking inside off his wing.
Then Morgan's run allowed Warlow to put in a cross-kick that was fielded brilliantly by Wyatt over the try line.
The elusive win stayed just out of reach, but the Dragons can be pleased with a bonus point in defeat for losing by less than seven points.
Dragons coach Paul Turner:
"These are always difficult places to come and if I'm honest at 29-10 we were hanging on.
"But we've got some good, skilful players - people like Gareth Wyatt, Kevin Morgan, Ceri Sweeney and Gareth Cooper - and those guys turned the game.
"I was delighted to see Castres hanging-on on their own pitch but I'm not too concerned with bonus points, I need to win."
Castres: Peyras Loustalet; Milford, Tuilagi, Marticorena, Christophers; Delaigue, Albouy, Hoeft, Romieu, Meeuws (capt), Capo Ortega, Nallet, Froment, Bernad, Taussac.
Replacements: Vigneaux, Forestier, Castex, Ghezal, Faure, Raffault, Barrau.
Dragons: Morgan; Wyatt, Tuipulotu, Sweeney, Breeze; Warlow, Cooper; Maddocks, Jones, Thomas, Gough, Sidoli, Hall, Forster (capt), Owen.
Replacements: Brown, Robinson, Charteris, Bryan, Baber, Bryant, Hinton.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).