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Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Dragons 19-21 Cardiff Blues

Dragons (13) 19
Try: Fussell Con: Connor Pens: Connor 4

Cardiff Blues (6) 21
Tries: Molitika, Sweeney Con: Blair Pens: Blair 3

Ceri Sweeney scores at Rodney Parade
Ceri Sweeney scores against his former team at Rodney Parade

Cardiff Blues claimed the Boxing Day derby bragging rights in Wales as they beat local rivals Newport Gwent Dragons 21-19 at Rodney Parade.

The Blues held on in a dramatic finish after Ben Blair kicked them ahead in the 63rd minute.

The Dragons' try came from wing Richard Fussell and fly-half Shaun Connor's boot did the rest.

Blues flanker Maama Molitika and fly-half Ceri Sweeney touched down while Blair's kicking proved the difference.

The Dragons enhanced their battling reputation in the first-half, claiming a 13-6 half-time lead despite winning only 44 per cent possession.

Connor kicked the opening points, rewarding his side's early pressure with a fourth-minute penalty.

The hosts kept the Blues at bay with determined defence, although the visitors did not help themselves as they often drifted wide instead of taking a more direct route.

Blair ensured the Blues got a benefit for their endeavours after 26 minutes, but two minutes later the Dragons continued their recent run of quirky tries.

Veteran flanker Colin Charvis scooped up loose possession, but just as the threat seemed to have fizzled out Blues wing Richard Mustoe flicked it back along the floor and Fussell raced through to gather and speed away.

Connor converted before he and Blair's kicking duel gathered pace, albeit the hosts ensuring their advantage up to the break.

The Blues struck almost from the restart as Molitika went over and Blair converted.

Connor's next penalty attempt was only awarded on the advice of the video ref, but the fly-half had no such worries over his next attempt as the Dragons recovered from Molitika's try to lead 19-13 in the 52nd minute.

However, two minutes later Tom Shanklin's influence on events began to tell, the Wales and Lions centre showing a return to form with some powerful running and deft touches.

Number eight Andy Powell's contribution was even more telling for the visitors as he claimed the man-of-the-match award while full-back Jason Tovey's tactical kicking at counter-attacking helped him shine for the Dragons.

Shanklin's run paved the way for ex-Dragon Sweeney to touch down after 54 minutes and nine minutes later Blair put the Blues in the lead for the first time with a penalty.

There was a dramatic finish in which replacement fly-half James Arlidge and full-back Tovey each had drop-goal attempts charged down while the latter's final attempt drifted wide for Tom James to mark and kick off the field.

Dragons boss Paul Turner: "As a spectacle it must have been pretty exciting. I felt we gave a soft try away, but they'll be thinking the same, just after half-time and then the game was in the balance.

"We had a difficulty today. Our [television] monitor wasn't working and there was a couple of little things that I saw that I couldn't look at after which is where the match-winning penalty came fromů something happened before that was given and whether Jason [Tovey] was taken out in the air or not, I'm not sure.

"Perhaps you guys [the media] can enlighten me on that. But you've got to be proud of a performance like that.

"I think we went something like 38 phases at the end and played some great stuff and probably should have nailed it.

"There's occasions where [referee] James [Jones] wasn't going to give a penalty at that [late] stage. Whether they were on or offside, again, I couldn't see because I didn't see the monitor and we got charged down twice.

"And from the first one perhaps we could have scored again. We were near to the line coming around the corner and it's just not gone our way.

"But I've told the players how proud I was of them and we've come a long way and I thought there were certain little things that happened today that a year ago we were way off the mark with.

"But now we've adapted. A couple of our signings have worked for us and it's galvanised a lot of players.

"People like [Colin] Charvis and [Luke] Charteris I thought were outstanding and but for the rub of the green we would probably have won this today.

"... I did feel Cardiff Blues had just that little bit more power at key stages, but they were out on their feet at the end and I felt we should have dropped the goal to win it, but who am I to say?"

Blues boss Dai Young:
"The last two or three minutes were nerve-wracking, but I thought we showed our determination in holding them out.

"Certainly in the last minute or so they looked odds on to edge over or drop a goal and I thought our boys snuffed it out and came away with that win at the end.

"It was always going to be a tight game wasn't it? And these games down here are normally quite tight and it was another case today.

"I thought that the tries that we scored were well-created tries. I thought the last try - Ceri Sweeney's try - there was something like 16 phases so we worked for our tries.

"The disappointing factor for us and what we talked about at half-time is we gifted them seven points.

"We had a three-man overlap and took the ball in and in fairness they capitalised."

Newport-Gwent Dragons: Tovey, Wyatt, Gomer-Davies, Smith, Fussell, Connor, W. Evans, Black, Willis, R. Thomas, A. Jones, Charteris, MacDonald, L. Evans, Charvis.
Replacements: Arlidge for Connor (62), R. Lewis for W. Evans (62), Lydiate for MacDonald (62).
Not Used: S. Jones, Corsi, Ringer, Sidey.

Cardiff Blues: Blair, Mustoe, J. Robinson, Shanklin, James, Sweeney, Spice, Yapp, T. Thomas, G. Powell, Davies, Morgan, Molitika, A. Powell, Sowden-Taylor.
Replacements: G. Thomas for Mustoe (15), G. Williams for T. Thomas (55), Tito for Davies (55).
Not Used: Filise, White, Allinson, N. Robinson.

Att: 10,180

Ref: James Jones (WRU).

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see also
Magners Celtic League 2008/9
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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