Pro14: Cardiff Blues 43-29 Dragons
|Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Dragons|
|Cardiff Blues (10) 43|
|Tries: Dacey, Morgan 2, James, Cuthbert, Evans Cons: Evans 4 Pen: Evans|
|Dragons (21) 29|
|Tries: Warren, Dee, Gasson, Fairbrother Cons: Henson 3 Pen: Henson|
Cardiff Blues produced a thrilling comeback to see off Dragons in the first Pro14 Welsh derby of the season.
Dragons were brilliant in the first half, leading 21-10 as Adam Warren, Elliot Dee and George Gasson crossed.
But Blues responded in devastating fashion after the break, as Matthew Morgan twice, Tom James, Alex Cuthbert and Jarrod Evans added to Kristian Dacey's first-half try.
Lloyd Fairbrother's late try did at least give Dragons a bonus point.
The result means Dragons have lost their last 26 away games in the competition since winning at Treviso in March 2015 and have not beaten a rival Welsh side since the Gwent region overcame the Blues at the Arms Park in December 2014.
Dragons were forced into two late changes, losing both wingers Jared Rosser and Ashton Hewitt after fitness tests.
Their withdrawals made it 31 squad players unavailable to head coach Bernard Jackman through injury.
But given an unexpected opportunity to play in the first Welsh derby of the season, Warren and fellow flyer Gasson took their chance with both hands.
Warren struck within four minutes as he was put away neatly on the right touchline by Gavin Henson, who timed his pass to perfection as he took the last defender's tackle.
Hallam Amos launched the attack that led to the try but was stopped in his tracks by Taufa'ao Filise's high tackle.
Referee Nigel Owens had not missed the offence and after Henson had converted the try, he sent Blues prop Filise to the sin bin.
Despite being a man light, Blues responded with a patient build-up and the home side's forwards battered away on the right to send Dacey over for a try converted by Evans.
With one hooker having scored, his opposing number Dee replied to restore Dragons' lead, barging through Keiron Assiratti's poor attempt at a tackle for another seven-pointer.
Blues fly-half Evans replied with a penalty but the home side found themselves picked apart again by the rampant Dragons.
Tyler Morgan received turnover ball in his own 22 and the Wales centre produced a scorching run upfield that left defenders clutching thin air.
Cuthbert managed to catch him just short of the line but Gasson was in support to take the scoring pass, with Henson's conversion making it 21-10 to Dragons at half-time.
Blues coach Danny Wilson, who announced last week he would leave at the end of the season, sent Matthew Morgan on at full-back for Rhun Williams.
The change paid instant dividends as the former Ospreys and Bristol player darted over after a period of sustained Blues pressure.
Evans converted but Dragons pulled away again after their pack claimed a penalty from a scrum, allowing Henson to add three more points.
Blues piled on the pressure, with Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo pulling the strings in midfield, but Dragons kept their shape and discipline under pressure until the 61st minute.
James had looked dangerous with ball in hand all evening and the wing finally made a clean break as Dragons tired, although Evans missed the conversion that would have tied the score.
Josh Navidi seemed set to score a breakaway try as the canny Blues flanker picked off Amos' pass, but Tyler Morgan again showed his blistering pace to hold up the Cardiff flanker on the try line.
It was a temporary reprieve, however, as after a series of scrums Cuthbert took a crash ball to go over almost under the posts and secure a bonus point. Evans converted to make it 29-24 and put Blues into the lead for the first time.
That seemed to take the last of the strength out of the Dragons, as fifth and sixth Blues tries followed in quick succession.
Evans shaped to pass inside, checking Jack Dixon and instead racing past the centre's outside shoulder, before Morgan claimed his second try of the night after Blues took a quick tap penalty.
Dragons did at least come away with something to show for their efforts, as replacement front row Fairbrother went over for their fourth try to claim a bonus point.
Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson: "I've got to credit the Dragons; first half we weren't physically at the races - which is a bad thing to say for a derby - they were, forced a couple of turnovers and lit up for a couple of good tries.
"There was a little bit of a stern talking to at half-time from leaders and from coaches and we went out and played the best second half of rugby I've seen us play for a long time.
"A little bit of tempo in the game suits Cardiff Blues and we managed to get that going in the second half."
Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman: "At half-time we were hoping for a little bit more.
"But the way the game went away from us in the second half we showed good character to go and get that bonus point.
"I take responsibility for that loss, we just weren't good enough on exiting, we just couldn't relieve pressure in the second half - there was a strong wind and every time we got a turnover we failed to find touch or exit properly."
Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams (capt); Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey, Taufa'ao Filise, Seb Davies, Damian Welch, Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, James Down, Josh Turnbull, Tomos Williams, Steven Shingler, Matthew Morgan.
Dragons: Hallam Amos; Adam Warren, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, George Gasson, Gavin Henson, Sarel Pretorius; Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Matthew Screech, Cory Hill (capt), James Thomas, Ollie Griffiths, James Benjamin.
Replacements: Liam Belcher, Luke Garrett, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Aaron Wainwright, Owain Leonard, Angus O'Brien, Will Talbot-Davies.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)