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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK
Blues 31-20 Dragons
Blues scrum-half Mike Phillips scored twice in a fine display
Blues scrum-half Mike Phillips scored twice in a fine display
Blues 31 (17)
Tries: Phillips 2, Rush, Shanklin.
Cons: Blair 4.
Pens: Blair.

Dragons 20 (3)
Tries: Bearman, Maule.
Cons: Sweeney 2.
Pens: Sweeney 2.

Mike Phillips sent Cardiff Blues top of the Magners League as he orchestrated a bonus-point win over Newport Gwent Dragons on Tuesday at the Arms Park.

The scrum-half scored two tries, one owing everything to quickness of mind and foot and the other to pure power.

But Phillips' passing and eye for a gap also drove the Blues onward, one fine break setting up Tom Shanklin's try.

Xavier Rush added the Blues' other score with Joe Bearman and Gareth Maule replying in a gutsy Dragons' effort.

The Dragons made light of their lowly league position in the opening quarter, bossing possession and territory against Welsh rivals six places and 18 points above them.

"I'm a bit disappointed I didn't have man-of-the-match, I don't know what I have to do but Rushy (Xavier Rush) had it again so there you are!

Blues scrum-half Mike Phillips

Wing Richard Fussell caught the eye with his magnificent take of an up-and-under tight on the touchline, out-jumping Rhys Williams to dart away.

The pressure earned a penalty that Ceri Sweeney appeared to convert with a steepling kick, although the officials ruled the ball had just gone wide above the posts.

Worse fortune was to follow as Gareth Cooper fumbled from a ruck and opposite number Phillips gathered the loose ball to streak away under the posts, Ben Blair converting.

Sweeney got the Dragons on the scoreboard with a penalty that this time left no doubt, but Blair replied after the Blues scrum shoved the opposite eight off the ball.

The home side got a grip on the game and the Dragons were finding it a far harder job to defend than during their early purple patch.

Jamie Ringer, no stranger to the sin-bin this season, added another yellow card to his collection after referee Nigel Owens caught the open-side slowing things down.

The Blues took immediate advantage from a close-range scrum, as number eight Rush picked up and charged over in the channel where Ringer would have been.

Blair's simple conversion gave the Blues a 17-3 lead at half-time, and halfway to the four tries needed for a bonus point to boost their title bid.

The Dragons hit back soon after the restart as Fussell threw a dummy and launched himself into the space between the two Blues props.

Bearman was on his shoulder and the blind-side stepped nimbly inside Chris Czekaj to go under the posts for a seven-pointer.

It says a lot when Cardiff Blues can bring internationals off their bench - that is our problem but we've been developing youngsters

Dragons coach Paul Turner

Yet the Blues hit back almost immediately as Phillips found the visitors dozing around the fringes of a ruck to launch a counter from deep in his own half.

Robin Sowden-Taylor, who like Phillips is part of the 28-man Wales squad that will tour Australia later this month, provided the link and the pass for Shanklin to finish things off.

Blair's third successful conversion restored the Blues' 14-point lead.

Although Sweeney added a penalty for the Dragons soon after, the Blues made the result safe and claimed the all-important fourth try in the 65th minute.

It was Phillips again, the scrum-half using all his pace and power to batter through Phil Dolman's tackle and stretch out to reach the line.

The Dragons refused to lie down and Maule scored a superb breakout try down the left wing from Fussell's clever pop-pass.

Sweeney's conversion pulled the visitors to within 11 points, but the clock was against them and the Blues can now prepare for another crucial Welsh derby at Llanelli Scarlets on Saturday.


  • Blues scrum-half Mike Phillips:
    "It was a huge game for us and, fair play to the boys, we all performed really well.

    "I'm a bit disappointed I didn't have man-of-the-match, I don't know what I have to do but Rushy (Xavier Rush) had it again so there you are!

    "It was a really enjoyable game, it was an open game, but our handling was very poor at times."

  • Dragons coach Paul Turner:
    "You shouldn't be happy with defeat but we had a lot of 20-year-olds playing again.

    "Most of them put their hands up and it was just crucial errors that let them win the game.

    "But I'm really proud of my players and it says a lot when Cardiff Blues can bring internationals off their bench - that is our problem but we've been developing youngsters."


    Blues: Ben Blair; Rhys Williams, Tom Shanklin, Marc Stcherbina, Chris Czekaj; Nicky Robinson, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Gareth Williams, Gary Powell, Deiniol Jones, Robert Sidoli, Scott Morgan, Robin Sowden-Taylor, Xavier Rush (capt).
    Replacements: Bradley Davies for Sidoli (58), Martyn Williams for Sowden-Taylor (61), Jamie Robinson for Shanklin (67), Mark Lewis for Rush (67), Scott Roberts for Jenkins (70), Wayne Evans for Phillips (72), T Rhys Thomas.

    Dragons: Kevin Morgan (capt); Gareth Wyatt, Gareth Maule, Phil Dolman, Richard Fussell; Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Cooper; Dai Maddocks, Ben Daly, Rhys Thomas, Andrew Hall, Luke Charteris, Joe Bearman, Jamie Ringer, Michael Owen.
    Replacements: Ian Gough for Hall (55), Aled Thomas for Dolman (59), Adam Black for Maddocks (61), Richard Wilkes for Daly (61), Alex Walker for Cooper (61), Dan Lydiatt, Martin Thomas.

    Att: 9,326

    Referee: Nigel Owens (WRFU).



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    BBC Sport Wales coverage
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