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PREVIEW Dragons host Blues in first Welsh Euro derby in 15 years

Monday 30th March 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Cela fait quinze ans que deux clubs gallois ne se sont pas affrontés sur la scène européenne. Samedi à Newport

Cela fait quinze ans que deux clubs gallois ne se sont pas affrontés sur la scène européenne. Samedi à Newport

It is 15 years since two Welsh clubs met in Europe and there will be more than local bragging rights at stake at Rodney Parade when Cardiff Blues visit Rodney Parade for their European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final clash with Newport Gwent Dragons..

The Dragons reward for winning their pool was home advantage over their biggest rivals, Cardiff Blues, for the right to meet the winners of London Irish v Edinburgh Rugby in the semi-finals. The Dragons haven't been this far since 2007, while the Blues were the Challenge Cup champions in 2010.

And both teams have shown signs off an upturn in fortunes over the past month ahead of one of the most eagerly-awaited games in regional history. Not since Llanelli knocked-out Cardiff in the Heineken Cup in 2000 has Welsh rugby witnessed a European derby.

And with neither side likely to reach the Guinness PRO12 play-offs, both are battling to claim silverware in the Challenge Cup – as well as to settle the bragging rights for the season after each won away from home in the PRO12.

“Europe has to be a target for us now. We have a lot of confidence in our squad but we have to make sure we have something to play for at the end of the season,” said Blues caretaker coach Paul John.

The Blues have a remarkable record in the Challenge Cup, having won eight of their nine games in the tournament to date, including lifting the trophy after their victory over RC Toulon in Marseille five years ago – the only time a Welsh side has won a European title.

Ironically, there could be more survivors from that triumph over Jonny Wilkinson's RC Toulon team on the Dragons side, than in the Blues. Scrum half Richie Rees and hooker Rhys Thomas both started that final in the south of France, but will line-up for the Dragons, while Gethin Jenkins and Sam Warburton, the only other players involved, could return from Wales duty for the Blues.

Dragons will be without suspended captain Rynard Landman, but qualified top of a group that included Stade Francais Paris and Newcastle Falcons. And they warmed up for this crunch tie with an impressive 32-17 win at Treviso that saw them leap ahead of Cardiff in the PRO12 standings.

“It was just the performance that we were looking for moving onto the Blues game. We looked organised and tidy while we showed plenty of character,” said Dragons director of rugby, Lyn Jones.

“We’ve now got a lot of question marks over the side for the quarter-final and there is going to be an edge in training, which is what players want. We’ve put a lot of work in on the training field and it’s coming through now. We’ve got six to eight games left this season and will need to keep building.”

The Blues lost Welsh international backs Rhys Patchell and Cory Allen with injuries early on in their 36-17 defeat to Ulster Rugby at the Kingspan Stadium last weekend and both men will face fitness tests ahead of the quarter-final.

Match Facts

  • Hallam Amos was the top metre maker in the pool stages of the Challenge Cup this season, making 510 metres over the gainline for the Dragons. Amos also made the most clean breaks (12).
  • Nic Cudd made the joint most tackles in the pool stage, completing 70 out of 78 attempted tackles for the Dragons.
  • Richard Smith and Lloyd Williams both crossed for five tries in the pool stage, only Grenoble’s Laurent Bouchet also crossed for as many.
  • Cardiff’s line-out success rate of 90% is superior to any other side in the competition this season.
  • The Blues scored the most points and tries in the pool stage, they averaged 5.8 tries per game in their six matches.
  • 14 of Newport Gwent’s tries came from the first phase of possession in the pool stage, more than any other side in the competition.
  • Newport Gwent Dragons have never been pitted against fellow Welsh opposition in European competition (Champions or Challenge Cup).
  • Cardiff have lost just once in their nine games in the history of this competition, losing away from home to London Irish in the pool stages this season.
  • Cardiff have scored 47 tries in their nine previous games in this competition, an average of 5.2 per game.
  • Newport Gwent Dragons need to score 21 points to reach the 1,000 point milestone in this competition, they would be the first Welsh side to achieve this feat.

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REPORT: Dragons win Welsh thriller

Saturday 4th April 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Newport Gwent Dragons won a thrilling Welsh derby 25-21 to book their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals. - 04/04/2015 14:58

Newport Gwent Dragons won a thrilling Welsh derby 25-21 to book their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals. - 04/04/2015 14:58

Newport Gwent Dragons won a thrilling Welsh derby 25-21 to book their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals.

Hallam Amos and Nic Cudd crossed either side of half-time before Lloyd Williams conceded a costly penalty try.

Williams, the tournament’s top try-scorer, had given Cardiff an early lead that was extended by Gareth Anscombe’s try.

But a late effort by Josh Navidi was not enough to deny local rivals Dragons a place in the last four of Europe for the first time in eight years. 

Blues suffered a blow before kick-off when Argentina international Juaquin Tuculet was ruled out with a hand injury.

And with Wales centre Cory Hill already out, scrum-half Tavis Knoyle was used as a makeshift midfielder.

However the ploy looked to have worked when Knoyle’s kick and chase set up a Blues scrum close to the Dragons line from where Williams crossed for the opening try.

Josh Navidi probed the blindside, Alex Cuthbert surged through the middle and Williams followed over the line inside four minutes.

Prydie responded with a penalty but Dragons suffered a major blow with injury to second-row talisman Andrew Coombs.

That saw the arrival of Taulupe Faletau but the British Lions star was unable to stem the Blue tide.

Cuthbert threatened in an open and entertaining encounter while Williams went close to a second.

Cuthbert was held up over the line but Blues scored directly from a scrum again as Anscombe stepped past Dorian Jones to touch down.

Anscombe converted his own try and Blues looked comfortable at 14-3.

But Dragons wing Amos picked his angle to score a crucial try four minutes before half-time and it was the home side who turned the game on its head.

That was despite losing flanker James Thomas to a head injury inside the first minute of the second half.

Replacement Cudd stepped off the bench and spun over for his team’s second try just moment later after Cardiff looked to have kept the Dragons at bay.

The lead was just a point, 15-14, after Prydie struck the post with his conversion.

But he was stepping up once again after Cardiff’s try-scorer Williams conceded a penalty try.

Williams saw his clearance blocked by Jonathan Evans and then pulled back his opposite number to deny the Dragons scrum-half touching down.

Referee JP Doyle awarded the penalty try, converted by Prydie, and sent Williams to the sin bin.

However Prydie was off-target again at goal after Anscombe was penalised and Dragons fans feared his three missed could prove costly.

Dorian Jones took over and slotted his first effort that gave Dragons enough of a cushion to survive a late Blues surge.

Navidi profited when the Dragons scrum finally buckled. Anscombe’s conversion set up a thrilling climax but the hosts held out for a well-earned win. 

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