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Morgan returns to breathe new life into Dragons

Guinness PRO14 Rugby Editor 5 May 2017
Preview: Newport Gwent Dragons v Cardiff Blues

Cardiff Blues travel to the Constructaquote Stadium in Caerphilly to take on Newport Gwent Dragons on Super Saturday in a battle for regional pride.

Dragons look to end their season on a high with a first win in the Guinness PRO12 since January, while Blues defend their seventh-place spot with Connacht just four points behind.

What’s at stake?

Dragons could still be caught by Italian sides Treviso and Zebre – who do battle this weekend – and will want to hold onto their tenth place finish.

A bonus-point victory would put Kingsley Jones’ men on 27 points, level with Edinburgh Rugby – who take on Glasgow Warriors – though the Scots could retain ninth-place on points difference.

Warriors have already pulled too far ahead for Blues to secure a top-six finish, but Danny Wilson’s team will aim for a win to avoid Connacht making up the five points which separate the two sides.

Newport Gwent Dragons team news: Kingsley Jones makes just two changes for the final game of the season, with Welsh International Tyler Morgan coming in at outside centre and Sam Hobbs returning as loosehead prop.

The back three of Carl Mayer, Adam Hughes and Pat Howard is unchanged and Sam Beard partners up with Morgan in the centre.

Charlie Davies and Angus O’Brien continue as the the half-back pairing and, up front, Hobbs is joined by prop Brok Harris and hooker Thomas Rhys Thomas.

Matthew Screech and Cory Hill pack down in the second row, while skipper Lewis Evans and Nic Cudd are in the back row with Ollie Griffiths at No.8.

Cardiff Blues team news: There are five changes for the Blues, in the backs Matthew Morgan returns at full-back and Lloyd Williams at scrum half. While Corey Domachowski, Matthew Rees and Sion Bennett are brought into the pack.

Alex Cuthbert and Rhun Williams take up position on the wings, with Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo in the centre and Gareth Anscombe at fly-half.

Captain Ellis Jenkins and prop Nick Williams join Bennett in the front row, with Macauley Cook and Jarrad Hoeata the locks and Taufa’ao Filise alongside Rees and Domachowski in the back row.

Talking points: Cardiff Blues’ Danny Wilson is aware of the size the challenge, despite his team’s run of form with wins over Ospreys and Zebre.

He said: “The Dragons will be fired up, there’s no doubt about that. They have some good quality rugby players, and no matter how good or bad your form is, derbies are different.

“It’s a different intensity and you certainly can’t take any opposition lightly.

“We will need to rock up mentally in the right place and fully anticipate a tough day in Caerphilly but hopefully one we can come out on top of.

“We’ve picked up a few short-term injuries (Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey and Josh Navidi), on top of those existing but we’re determined to finish the PRO12 with an away win in Caerphilly.”

Key battle: Angus O’Brien v Gareth Anscombe

Dragons’ 22-year-old Angus O’Brien faces a tough challenge as he comes up against the more experienced Welsh international Gareth Anscombe this weekend.

Both fly-halves have been instrumental for their sides in recent weeks, with Anscombe scoring 20 of the Blues’ 30 points against Zebre last week – displaying an intelligent kicking game and dynamism with ball in hand.

O’Brien has been central to the Dragons’ attack, playing a pivotal role in a sweeping cross-field move that sent winger Pat Howard over in the corner against Edinburgh

Key stat: Dragons have not beaten a fellow Welsh Region in the PRO12 since their 23-17 victory at Cardiff Blues in December 2014.

Did you know? Caerphilly hosts its first PRO12 game since Ulster were the visitors in October 2002.

Newport Gwent Dragons top points scorer: Angus O’Brien 123 Top try scorer: Pat Howard 5
Cardiff Blues top points scorer: Steve Shingler 128 Top try scorer: Tom James 6

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Dragons won 8, Blues won 19.

At Constructaquote Stadium, Caerphilly, 5.15pm. Live on S4C
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU – 64th tournament game)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (WRU), Simon Rees (WRU).
Citing Commissioner: Dennis Jones (WRU)
TMO: Paul Adams (WRU)

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

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Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Blues do enough to down Dragons in return to Caerphilly

Luke Baker 6 May 2017

A superb performance from Willis Halaholo helped Cardiff Blues edge to a 26-24 victory at Newport Gwent Dragons to end their Guinness PRO12 campaign on a high.

In front of a sell-out crowd of 5,167 at Constructaquote Stadium – the first time Caerphilly has hosted a PRO12 clash since the visit of Ulster in October 2002 – inside centre Halaholo thrilled, scoring a try and making big yards with almost every carry.

Carl Meyer crossed early on for the Dragons but scores from Wales international Matthew Morgan and Halaholo put the visitors in control, while Gareth Anscombe’s boot also kept the scoreboard ticking over, meaning Sam Beard’s late score was no more than consolation.

The result means the hosts – who have not beaten a fellow Welsh region in the Guinness PRO12 since December 2014 – finish 11th in the table, having been leapfrogged by Treviso on the final day, while the Blues end seventh.

In what was their first PRO12 game in Caerphilly for over 14 years, it took the Dragons just one minute to trouble the scoreboard.

Angus O’Brien produced an exquisite chip into the corner and Meyer was on hand to dot down, although O’Brien’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful in the swirling wind.

Having had success with the tactic once, O’Brien continued to lean on the cross-field kick and although it didn’t produce immediate dividends, the fly-half did stretch the lead to 8-0 with a penalty off the inside of the post.

However, kicking was soon to prove fruitful for the Blues as Meyer failed to gather Morgan’s low grubber, Alex Cuthbert booted the loose ball ahead and Morgan pounced to touch down, Anscombe’s conversion narrowing the deficit to one point.

O’Brien slotted a second penalty but some magic from Halaholo conjured up the third try of the game just before the half-hour mark, as his no-look pass started the move and the New Zealander duly finished it off by blazing past four defenders. Anscombe’s conversion took the score to 14-11 at half-time.

The lead became six points after the break when Anscombe took advantage of a scrum penalty by bisecting the uprights and when Thomas Rhys Thomas was should a yellow card midway through the second period, the visitors had a real chance to ram home their advantage.

They dominated territory during that period but the Dragons held firm until good work at the breakdown from Nick Williams won the Blues a penalty, which Anscombe converted for a 20-11 lead.

Looking for a first PRO12 win since January, the Dragons got themselves within three points with just eight minutes remaining thanks to a pair of long-range penalties from the boot of Meyer.

But another Anscombe three-pointer when the hosts were pinged at the breakdown eased any nerves and the nine-cap Wales international then added a fourth penalty with two minutes remaining.

There was still time for Beard to grab a try in the corner for the Dragons right at the death and although O’Brien nailed the tricky conversion, they still went down by two points.

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. 
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie

Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

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