Cardiff edge Dragons in URC thriller
URC REPORT: Flyhalf Rhys Priestland kicked Cardiff to a dramatic 19-18 United Rugby Championship victory at Dragons.
Will Reed missed a last-minute penalty from 45 metres and the Men of Gwent have not beaten their fierce rivals since Boxing Day 2014, a run of 14 matches, and the defeat means they have only one game left to avoid the ignominy of not winning a home game all season.
The game was marred by two red cards in the first half, Joe Davies of Dragons and Cardiff’s Liam Belcher both for high challenges.
Priestland was Cardiff’s hero with four penalties and a conversion of a try from Lloyd Williams.
Jack Dixon and Olly Griffiths scored tries for Dragons, Sam Davies converted one with Reed adding two penalties.
Priestland gave Cardiff a third-minute lead with a straightforward penalty before Dragons suffered another setback when Joe Davies was sent off for a high challenge on visiting prop Rhys Carre.
Priestland’s penalty was the only score of a pedestrian and error-ridden first quarter, with Cardiff having much the better of territory and possession but having little idea on how to capitalise on it.
It took Dragons 24 minutes to have their first opportunity for points, Reed making no mistake with his 40-metre kick.
A couple of minutes later, Reed had another penalty chance, this one from the halfway line, but the flyhalf was well off target.
The game badly needed a spark and it got one when Owen Lane took advantage of some space to race past Jack Dixon and provide Williams with an easy run-in.
Priestland converted before Belcher, on his 50th appearance for the club, was red-carded for a head-high tackle on Reed, who departed for a head injury assessment.
Dragons immediately capitalised when Griffiths picked up from a five-metre scrum to crash over, with a conversion from Sam Davies leaving the scores level at 10-10 at the interval.
Reed returned for the second half and in time to see Priestland first miss with a 40-metre penalty before succeeding with a kick of similar distance.
The outside-half then chanced his arm from inside his own half but his kick was nowhere near so his penalty was the only score of a featureless third quarter.
After 64 minutes, Dragons took the lead for the first time when they moved the ball sweetly along their three-quarter line for Dixon to force his way over in the corner.
Reed missed the touchline conversion before Priestland restored Cardiff’s advantage with two penalties in quick succession.
A second from Reed set up a tense finish but his late miss ensured Cardiff held on to the four points.
Player of the match
Cardiff scrumhalf Lloyd Williams had to call on all his experience to keep his side in contention. His well-judged box- kicks and an efficient partnership with Rhys Priestland were key issues and he was rewarded with the only try from the visitors as he supported Owne Lane’s thrilling burst.
Play of the match
After a poor first 30 minutes, Owen Lane brought the game the life with the best individual play of the night. The powerful wing received a pass from James Ratti to power through the home defence and set up Lloyd Williams for the crucial try.
Tries: Griffiths, Dixon
Con: S Davies
Pens: Reed 2
Try: L Williams
Pens: Priestland 4
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio dyer, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Will Reed, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou; 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Ben Fry, 6 Harri Keddie (captain), 5 Ben Carter, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Josh Lewis.
Cardiff Rugby: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Theo Cabango, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Ratti, 7 Josh Navidi (captain), 6 James Botham, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Mason Grady.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales) & Tom Spurrier (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)