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The fifth-placed Welsh region in the Celtic League will play in the Parker Pen tournament next season and The Dragons’ 23-point hiding last night leaves the Blues trailing the fourth-placed Ospreys by seven points with
only three rounds left in the tournament.
A second-half Nathan Brew double and 23 points from Springbok Percy Montgomery ensured that The Dragons kept their League title hopes alive and their unbeaten Celtic League record at Rodney Parade intact.
The Blues made a perfect start to the match after a series of early penalties gave them a lineout five metres from The Dragons’ try-line. A clean take from Jim Brownrigg was smuggled to openside flanker Martyn Williams and the visiting pack shoved their skipper through a bemused
Dragons star Montgomery replied with a penalty goal, and the home side looked to have the upper hand with they were handed a one-man advantage by referee Olan Trevor when he sin-binned lock Craig Quinnell.
It wasn’t to be. With the Dragons hot on attack, the ball was spilled near the touchline and toed ahead by Tom Shanklin. The Wales centre but Blues winger kicked it 70 metres and won a foot-race with Montgomery to score a
try that silenced the packed Rodney Parade crowd.
The stunned Dragons gathered their wits and attacked their opponents’ line until they earned a penalty for Montgomery to convert. In the last play of the half, a Gareth Baber break set up summer-tour hopeful, flanker Jason Forster, for a well-taken try, and the Blues were kicking themselves as The Dragons took a 13-10 lead into the break.
Blues fly-half Nicky Robinson was having a disappointing night with his kicking – missing his first three shots at goal – but looked to have made amends with a clean break through The Dragons’ midfield for a four-on-two
overlap early in the second spell. Unfortunately for the talented stand-off, he passed it directly to the touch judge.
Teams don’t win Celtic League matches with those mistakes and the Blues were looking at a 10-20 scoreline when Dragons winger Nathan Brew dived on a loose ball near the visitors’ posts.
Robinson clawed back a penalty goal, but an excellent individual try to Brew took the match – and probably the Heineken Cup next season – beyond the Blues.
Forster grabbed a try bonus point for The Dragons with his second, before Blues centre Jamie Robinson showed that his team weren’t lacking in spirit with a good try in the corner. Montgomery converted his own intercept try,
and that of skipper Andy Marinos for his 23-point haul.
Shanklin got his second deep into injury time to earn a try bonus point that could prove valuable.