Battling Dragons edged out in capital
A brave effort from Dragons was not enough to overcome a strong Cardiff Blues contingent in a hard-fought Boxing Day derby match-up in the Guinness PRO14, writes Ethan Harris.
An overcast Cardiff Arms Park witnessed an opening stalemate – with neither side able to put points on the board in the first few minutes.
It would be the home side to break the deadlock once the game had settled, as fly half Jarrod Evans played a neat dummy to break through the Dragons defence.
The Blues number 10 broke quickly, slipping the ball to back row Shane Lewis-Hughes who barrelled over for the first try of the game, with Evans slotting home the conversion.
Dragons came forward from a quick restart, looking to attack down the left with Tyler Morgan crashing towards the line.
Looking to smash his way through the last defender, Morgan pushed hard but lost the ball metres out, as the Blues defence stood strong to repel an almost immediate reply.
The Blues extended their advantage courtesy of Evans’ boot after a back-and-forth half-an-hour, giving the home side a 10-0 lead from the tee.
And after a strong drive down the field, the Dragons would find their foothold in the game before the half was up.
Man-of-the-match Taine Basham completed the line-out drive after Dragons pack drove over, halving the deficit at the break with Sam Davies unable to convert his kick as he pushed it left of the post.
After a first half of very little action, the second period exploded with a flurry of points early-on.
Evans again looked to extend the lead with an early penalty from just inside his own half but couldn’t convert as the ball smacked against the horizontal bar.
However, Dragons would quickly reply from a narrow Blues miss in the best possible fashion.
Bringing the ball forward after an intercept, the field quickly opened up for Basham as he broke into the 22 from inside his own half.
The home side recovered as their backs brought down the flanker just before the try-line, but with quick recycling of the ball it was lock Matthew Screech who brought the scores level with a try.
Sam Davies kicked his first points of the game, as the visitors gained a one-point lead in the derby.
Blues replied almost immediately, with Jarrod Evans restoring the home sides’ advantage with a slick penalty pushed over the posts.
With Jason Tovey replacing Evans, the number 22 looked to make an immediate impact for the opposition.
The replacement had his chance with a penalty but failed to convert from the tee, as another Blues miss kept the scoreboard close.
Instead, Tovey would have to wait until the final quarter of the game remained to kick his points, as another penalty inside the Dragons 22 was converted by the replacement.
The deficit could have been more, with Tovey given another chance to extend the lead but again pushed his kick wide to keep the difference at just four points, with Ashton Hewitt sent to the sin-bin for the remainder of the game.
And despite an immense last-ditch effort to steal the game, the Blues held on for the victory at the Cardiff Arms Park.
10m Lewis-Hughes t Evans c 7-0
28m Evans p 10-0
38m Basham t 10-5
45m Screech t Davies c 10-12
49m Evans p 13-12
68m Tovey p 16-12
Dragons: Will Talbot-Davies, Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon (Warren 70), Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard (Brown 55), Aaron Jarvis (Dee 55), Matthew Screech (Davies 70), Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty (Keddie 46 (Botica 73))
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Lloyd Fairbrother, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Harrison Keddie, Luke Baldwin, Jacob Botica, Adam Warren
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams; Jarrod Evans (Jason Tovey 54), Tomos Williams (Lloyd Williams 61); Brad Thyer (Rhys Gill 40), Liam Belcher, Keiron Assiratti (Andrews 24), James Ratti, Josh Turnbull, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Josh Navidi (capt.) (Seb Davies 63)
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Seb Davies, Will Boyde, Lloyd Williams, Jason Tovey, Matthew Morgan
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)