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Dragons sink Blues

Newport Gwent Dragons reached the European Challenge Cup semi-finals with a thrilling 25-21 victory over Cardiff Blues.

Tries from wing Hallam Amos, replacement Nic Cudd, a penalty try plus penalties from Tom Prydie and Dorian Jones and two Prydie conversions brought the Dragons back from a big deficit to victory.

Scrum-half Lloyd Williams, fly-half Gareth Anscombe and number eight Josh Navidi crossed for the Blues, while Anscombe added three conversions.

The draw could not have set-up a more mouth-watering Welsh clash than this encounter between the old rivals, with a n away trip to either London Irish or Edinburgh the reward for the victors.

Cardiff held the upper hand historically, having won the Challenge Cup in 2010 when beating French outfit Toulon 28-21, while the furthest the Dragons had gone in Europe's second tournament was the semi-final stage.

The Blues fielded a lot of their big guns, including Wales captain Sam Warburton, while the home region curiously left star British Lions number eight Taulupe Faletau on the bench.

The visitors came out of the blocks with a blast, forcing the Dragons onto the defensive over their own line. From the attacking scrum five, the ball found its way to Williams to cross by the post and make Anscombe's conversion easy.

Prydie reduced the arrears when landing a long-range penalty but the Dragons suffered the loss of international ace Andrew Coombs with a bad leg injury, bringing Faletau into the fray to the loud cheers of the crowd.

It was a real cut and thrust affair but the Blues played with far more cohesion and they came up trumps again when, again from a scrum five, the ball went to Anscombe who drove through weak tackling to the line and again converted.

The Dragons did themselves no favours with an average kicking game as the Blues found the spaces and pushed them back.

But the home side pulled themselves back to within four points of the Blues at half-time when Amos was put away by scrum-half Jonathan Evans under the posts, with Prydie converting.

A thorn in the Dragons side was opposition wing Alex Cuthbert, who forced the home defence into multiple tackles - including one from full-back Jason Tovey, whose thumping hit prevented a possible runaway touchdown.

The Dragons took it to the Blues after the break as an attacking line-out set up a series of thrusts to the visiting line before Cudd saw a gap and went over just seconds after coming on for flanker James Thomas.

Prydie's conversion hit the post but the home side were on top and went in front for the first time when a clearance attempt a few metres from his line by Lloyd Williams was charged down and, as it crossed the line, a try was infringed.

Referee JP Doyle had no hesitation in running under the posts for a penalty try, easily converted by Prydie - with Williams earning 10 minutes in the bin.

A penalty from Dorian Jones further increased the Dragons' lead - but the vsitors would not give up.

From a series of scrums on the home line, Navidi picked up and went by the posts with Anscombe's conversion reducing the deficit to four points.

However, the Dragons survived an onslaught in the dying minutes to hold on for the victory.


From Belfast Telegraph