The first Welsh local derby of the Guinness Pro 14 season didn’t disappoint, with ten tries being scored at the Cardiff Arms Park. The Cardiff Blues came from behind at half time to blow away the Dragons in a spectacular second half performance.
Adam Warren, Elliot Dee and George Gasson’s first-half tries lifted the Dragons into a 21-10 advantage at the interval, but Cardiff came roaring back with a 33-point blitz to pick up a bonus-point win as the visitors were run ragged.
With both teams earning try bonus points, here is a look at the main factors toward the winning of the match.
Cardiff Blues 43 – Tries: Dacey, Morgan (2), James, Cuthbert, Evans; Conversions: Evans (5); Penalties: Evans
Dragons 29 – Tries: Warren, Dee, Gasson, Fairbrother. Cons: Gavin Henson (3); Pens: Henson
Cardiff Survive Early Dragons Attack
The first half, Cardiff Blues had plenty of possession and territory but lacked the creativity in the Dragons half. They only managed the one try with hooker Kristian Dacey going over from close range. On the other hand the Dragons were excellent with ball in hand, Gavin Henson at fly half along with scrum half Sarel Pretorius controlled the game for the Dragons in the first half.
The Dragons were clinical and ran in three tries through Aaron Warren, Elliott Dee and late addition young winger, George Gasson. Welsh centre Tyler Morgan was very impressive for the Dragons, and he showed good pace to create the Gasson try.
Tale Of Two Halves
A tale of two halves was definitely the story at the Arms Park. The addition of Matthew Morgan (see below picture) off the bench at half time made a huge difference for the Blues.
The Blues came out with much more of a purpose in attack, running better angles and offering more options with ball in hand. Morgan went over for his first try early in the second half to reduce the deficit. The Dragons failed to get a foot hold in the game in the second half, but thanks to some resolute defending they were still leading after the hour mark.
All the pressure in the second half paid off with Tom James going over for their 3rd try of the match. The flood gates opened up following James try, with the Blues scoring four tries in twelve minutes to blow away the tiring Dragons. Alex Cuthbert sealed the bonus point point before Jarrod Evans and Matthew Morgan also went over the whitewash.
The Dragons managed to seal a bonus point late on through substitution Lloyd Fairbrother. The prop managed to bundle over the whitewash following multiple phases from the Dragons.
VIDEO | “I think our attacking game was outstanding, we scored some great tries, played some really good rugby.” Danny Wilson on second half pic.twitter.com/camH7wPLWM
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) October 6, 2017
Cardiff Blues Defence Holds
Danny Wilson would have read the riot act to his players at half time, their poor defence allowed the Dragons to score three tries in the first half. The half time team talked worked as the Blues dominated possession and territory in the second half and their only blip in defence came late on when Fairbrother scored for the Dragons.
Standout player Seb Davies and number eight Nick Williams were both superb for the Blues in defence, making some big hits throughout. Despite the Dragons defending well for the majority of the match, head coach Bernard Jackman won’t be happy with how many penalties his team conceded.
Jackman will also be disappointed with how badly his team tired in the second half, allowing the Blues to run in multiple tries in the final 20 minutes. Tyler Morgan was the stand out in defence for the Dragons along with Ollie Griffiths. Morgan showed great defence along with pace to catch Josh Navidi following his interception and stop him over the line.
Despite some strong defence in patches, both coaches will be disappointed with their defence overall. The Blues missing 15 tackles, and conceding 8 penalties against the Dragons 19 missed tackles and 9 penalties conceded. Those stats showed where both teams were lacking.
Set Piece the Winning of Local Derby
The set piece was important for two reasons; the first both teams needed a solid set piece to get a foothold in the match. The second being the battle of the hookers, Kristian Dacey v Elliott Dee, with both players looking for a place in the Welsh squad for the Autumn Internationals. Both players managed 100% accuracy at the line out, while both also went over the whitewash. There was not much to separate either player, and both will be eager to find out if they have done enough to make the Welsh squad.
On the other hand, the Dragons were dominant in the scrum for the majority of the match and were able to win a few penalties from doing so.
Full Credit to Match Officials
Nigel Owens was the man in the middle and again showed why he is the best referee in world rugby. Owens deserves huge credit for the thriller in Cardiff, keeping the play flowing and allowing the game to become more exciting.
Young Cardiff Blues second row Seb Davies took the man of the match award. The 21 year old Welsh International, showed a powerful display with some dynamic and hard carrying along with plenty of tackles and big hits in defence.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) October 6, 2017
Match Player Rankings:
Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams (6), Alex Cuthbert (7), Ray Lee-Lo (6), Willis Halaholo (7), Tom James (7), Jarrod Evans (7), LloydWilliams © (6), Brad Thyer (6), Kristian Dacey (6), T. Filise (6), Seb Davies (9), Damien Welch (6), Josh Navidi (7), Ollie Robinson (7), Nick Williams (8).
Bench: Matthew Rees (6), C. Domachowski (6), Kieron Assiratti (6), George Earle (6), Josh Turnbull (6), Tomos Williams (8), Steven Shingler (6), Matthew Morgan (9).
Dragons: Hallam Amos (7), Aaron Warren (7), Tyler Morgan (8), Jack Dixon (6), George Gasson (6), Gavin Henson (8), Sarel Pretorius (7), Brok Harris (7), Elliott Dee (7), Leon Brown (6), Matthew Screech (6), Cory Hill © (6), James Thomas (6), Ollie Griffiths (7), James Benjamin (6).
Bench: Liam Belcher (6), Luke Garrett (6), Lloyd Fairbrother (7), Joe Davies (6), Aaron WainWright (6), Owain Leonard (6), Angus O’Brien (6), Will Talbot-Davies (6).
The Last Word with Gavin
The Cardiff Blues picked up a much needed second victory of the season, in the first Welsh local derby game. It sees them move up to fifth in conference A in the Guinness Pro14.
The Blues will look to take their second half performance into their next league fixture, another Welsh derby game in three weeks time away to the Scarlets. The Dragons suffered in the second half and looked off their feet.
The Gwent team have slipped to 6th in conference B, with only the Southern Kings below them. They will be hoping they can transform a good 40 minute performance into a full 80. And that will need to be when they travel to take on the Ospreys, next time out in the Pro14.
“Main photo credit”
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