Blues manage last gasp win over Dragons
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Cardiff Blues won a turgid Boxing Day derby against the Dragons, running out 13-12 victors at Rodney Parade.
The game was, in truth, difficult to love.
A deluge of rain before Christmas made the surface desperately difficult to play on, despite a frantic effort from the Rodney Parade groundstaff, who have been hit by Covid this week.
With the wind and rain blowing into their faces in the first half, Cardiff Blues set about giving away an alarming seven penalties in the opening 20 minutes.
Centres Max Llewellyn and Jamie Roberts – the young pup and the old stager – met for the first time in the eighth minute with the 21-year-old winning the collision. But the Blues went offside in the 13 channel and Dragons fly-half Josh Lewis opened his account from 30 metres out.
The Cardiff region continued to cough up penalties and another offside in the 22 after 15 minutes saw Lewis double the Dragons’ lead. Referee Craig Evans warned the Blues that they were on thin ice.
Three minutes later, a sloppy Jarrod Evans fumble in the backfield gifted the Dragons a scrum in the Blues’ half.
Dillon Lewis was penalised for dropping it and fly-half Lewis stepped up to slot his third penalty of the match.
The Dragons, who were the underdogs heading into this one, controlled the opening 20 minutes but they were helped along by their visitors’ discipline issues.
John Mulvihill – left at home as he isolates after coming into contact with a positive coronavirus case – will have been tearing his hair out but his side settled midway through the first half.
The Dragons began giving away cheap penalties and it took some breathtaking defence from Tavis Knoyle to prevent the games opening try. Kristian Dacey looked destined to score but the home scrum-half ripped the ball from his clutches as he flopped over the line.
But by this point, the visitors had been camped in the Dragons’ 22 for some time and fly-half Evans eventually opened his account in the 32nd minute with a penalty.
There was to be no more score in an opening period when the penalty count spiralled out of control. The Dragons led 9-3.
Evans and Lewis traded penalties in the opening minutes of the second half but the visitors began to turn the screw a little as a relatively uneventful second half played out.
With the wind now at their backs, the Blues played most of the second 40 in the Dragons’ half, with the hosts unable to really muster much with ball in hand.
The penalty count continued to balloon. Twice the hosts were penalised for taking out Blues chasers and it gifted field position to the visitors.
Evans booted the ball to the corner and the forwards took over. The driving maul didn’t do damage but the backs were never going to get a look in, despite the protestations of winger Josh Adams, who spent much of the game simply trying to retain feeling in his hands.
Forwards battered away at the line but eventually Josh Turnbull was shunted over near the posts by his team-mates. If a try was ever going to come, it was always going to be this way.
Evans converted and the Blues led for the first time in the 68th minute.
The visitors controlled much of the final 10 minutes and had all the territory but couldn’t cross for a late try that would have denied the Dragons a losing bonus point.
The Cardiff Blues left with the spoils but it won’t live long in the memory. There were five more penalties than points in the match, which told its own story.
Pen: Lewis 4
For Cardiff Blues
Pen: Evans 2
Dragons: 15 Jonah Holmes, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Jack Dixon, 12 Jamie Roberts (capt), 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Josh Lewis, 9 Tavis Knoyle; 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Lewis Evans, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Aneurin Owen, 23 Evan Lloyd
Cardiff Blues: 15 Hallam Amos, 14Aled Summerhill, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Josh Adams; 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbul, 7. James Botham, 6 Cory Hill (capt.), 5 Seb Davies, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Kristian Dacey, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Brad Thyer.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Rey Lee-Lo
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens and Dan Jones (both WRU)
TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)