Pro12: Newport Gwent Dragons 20-21 Cardiff Blues
|Newport Gwent Dragons (11) 20|
|Tries: Hewitt Pens: Jones 3, Tovey Drop-goals: Jones|
|Cardiff Blues (6) 21|
|Tries: Penalty, James Cons: Patchell Pens: Patchell 3|
Rhys Patchell landed a last-minute penalty to snatch an unlikely Pro12 win for Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade.
The home side were cruising 17-6 up after an hour as Dorian Jones' boot added to Ashton Hewitt's early try.
But a penalty try gave the Blues hope, and Tom James crossed moments later to close the gap to two points with five minutes remaining.
Patchell missed the conversion to draw level, but he made no mistake with a penalty to stun the dominant home side.
The winning margin matched that between the Ospreys and Scarlets on Boxing Day, but this encounter fell well short of the quality rugby served up in the first Welsh derby of the festive period that also ended in an away win.
But the late drama was equally engrossing, and the home side will be puzzled as to how exactly they conspired to throw it away.
A rare highlight
Despite both sides scoring six tries apiece in their past two matches in Europe, Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones predicted this would be no "festival of tries".
The former Wales flanker has seen enough Welsh derbies to know that bragging rights, rather than entertaining takes priority, and his warning proved to be depressingly accurate for the vast majority of a poor game.
There were encouraging signs for an open encounter when the Dragons scored the game's first try after just 11 minutes.
Jones, who had opened the scoring with a drop-goal, was the architect with a superb long pass to the left flank for Hewitt, who beat Patchell on the outside to score in the corner.
The fly-half missed the conversion, and the home side's hopes of building an early advantage evaporated with two Patchell penalties.
Jones, though, did land a long-range effort moments before the break to give the home side a slightly bigger 11-6 lead their superior attacking endeavours justified.
He added another penalty soon after the restart as the Dragons continued to show more tenacity and appetite than the subdued Blues, with a sweeping move from their own 22 deep into the visitors' territory a perfect illustration of the difference between the two sides.
That attack, where Hewitt again showed his natural ability a step past his man, came to nothing because of a turnover, but the Blues offered little in return to cause the home side any alarm.
But with 13 minutes remaining, the mood changed completely among the home fans as the visitors were suddenly back to within five points.
The Blues pack had enjoyed a semblance of superiority in the set-plays, and a perfectly executed driving maul from a line-out inside the Dragons 22 led to Lewis Evans conceding a penalty try.
Evans was sent to the sin bin for attempting to stop the inevitable, but Jason Tovey's penalty appeared to stem the tide, giving the Dragons a 20-13 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Sting in the tail
But having shown precious little ability with ball in hand, the Blues sensed an unlikely comeback and started to run.
Replacement Dan Fish provided the impetus with a darting break, and his simple pass to James gave the winger a clear run to the tryline.
The wing should have made the conversion simpler by running towards the upright, and the angle proved too difficult for Patchell as he failed to curl his effort between the posts.
But the full-back, who will leave for Scarlets at the end of the season, kept his nerve in the final minute when another uncharacterised Blues break led to a Dragons infringement, and it cost them dear.
Newport Gwent Dragons: Carl Meyer, Nick Scott, Adam Hughes, Adam Warren, Ashton Hewitt, Dorian Jones, Charlie Daveis; Phil Price, Thomas Rhys Thomas (capt), Brok Harris, Matthew Screech, Rynard Landman, Nick Crosswell, Nic Cudd, Lewis Evans.
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Boris Stankovich, Lloyd Fairbrother, Cory Hill, Ollie Griffiths, Luc Jones, Jason Tovey, Ross Wardle.
Cardiff Blues: Rhys Patchell; Alex Cuthbert, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Tom James; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Kristian Dacey, Taufa'ao Filise, Lou Reed, James Down, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Manoa Vosawai
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Sam Hobbs, Dillon Lewis, Macauley Cook, Cam Dolan, Tavis Knoyle, Cory Allen, Dan Fish
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessey, Sean Brickell (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Dennis Jones (WRU)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (WRU)