An­scombe penalty en­sures Blues’ spot in Euro play­off

The Rugby Paper - - Guinness Pro12 - ■ By JOHN ARKLESS

CARDIFF Blues head coach Danny Wil­son praised his play­ers for a “ma­ture” per­for­mance as they ground out a 26-24 win away to the Dragons in Caer­philly.

The Blues started poorly, but first half tries from Matthew Mor­gan and Wil­lis Hala­holo, plus 16 points from the boot of Gareth An­scombe were enough to over­come a com­pet­i­tive Dragons side.

Wil­son’s side can now look for­ward to a com­pet­ing in the Cham­pi­ons Cup play­offs, and the for­mer Wales U20 boss said: “It’s job done. Com­ing to Caer­philly - a dif­fer­ent and tough venue against a gritty Dragons team who came out of the blocks fly­ing for the first 10 or 15 min­utes, was dif­fi­cult.

“We didn’t really get the pace we wanted in our game in the sec­ond half but we got the win. It was still nip and tuck un­til we won the penalty to get com­fort­ably clear, but then we con­ceded straight from kick-off. I think we ground out the win in a ma­ture way. It’s a good way to end the sea­son.”

The Dragons had started the game well, cross­ing the line just two min­utes in when fly-half An­gus O’Brien calmly chipped the ball cross-field for Carl Meyer to score the game’s open­ing try.

A penalty from O’Brien gave the Dragons an 8-0 ad­van­tage, but it was a mis­take from the fly-half that al­lowed the Blues back into the game on 18 min­utes.

A hope­ful punt through from Mor­gan should have been rou­tinely col­lected by O’Brien, but he fum­bled the ball at the feet of Alex Cuth­bert, who hacked through for Mor­gan to score in the cor­ner. An­scombe’s touch­line con­ver­sion pulled things back to 8-7.

It was those mis­takes which frus­trated Dragons coach Kings­ley Jones, who rued his team’s in­abil­ity to hold on to their lead.

He said: “There’s a lot of

good in us, a lot of am­bi­tion at times, but a lot of mis­takes and I’m talk­ing about un­forced er­rors. It’s the top two inches with us.”

Al­though O’Brien kicked an­other penalty, the Blues took a lead which they would never re­lin­quish after half an hour when Wil­lis Hala­holo sen­sa­tion­ally stepped around three play­ers to give his side a 14-11 half-time ad­van­tage.

Hala­holo said: “We knew com­ing here as a derby it was go­ing to be tough en­counter. I’m quite a fan of play­ing at clubs. I played quite a lot at venues like this be­fore com­ing into the prov­inces. It was good to get the crowd out and it was some­thing dif­fer­ent for us.”

This game was played at the Con­struc­taquote Sta­dium due to Rod­ney Pa­rade host­ing New­port County’s rel­e­ga­tion de­cider with Notts County. It could also have been the last 80 min­utes the Dragons played in their cur­rent guise.

Tues­day’s vote on whether or not to rat­ify a WRU takeover will de­cide the Dragon’s fu­ture, but this was their 18th league de­feat of the sea­son.

The sec­ond half was a tight af­fair, with the Blues kick­ing sev­eral penal­ties from scrum in­fringe­ments.

But de­spite a sin bin for T Rhys Thomas for a neck roll, they still couldn’t shake the Dragons, who stayed in touch thanks to two mon­ster penal­ties from Meyer.

A late try from Sam Beard, con­verted with a drop kick by O’Brien, gave the Dragons a los­ing bonus point, but de­feat con­demned them to 11th place in the PRO12 stand­ings.

The Blues will now travel to France for a Cham­pi­ons Cup play-off in two weeks.

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