Cardiff Blues host the Dragons in a Welsh derby in the capital on Friday night in a crucial encounter for both sides. The Blues have spent the last two weeks on the road in Ireland and return to the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park to welcome a Dragons team fresh from victory over the Southern Kings.
What’s at stake: The Blues have made a slow start to the season with one win from their first five games, although three of those have come on the road in Ireland. Back at home they have been beaten by both Scottish sides, but will keen to reverse those fortunes against the Dragons.
Under Bernard Jackman, the Rodney Parade outfit have won twice at home but are still searching for their first points on the road.
Team news (Cardiff Blues): Cardiff Blues have made seven changes to the side that went down to Munster last week, most notably with the return of Lloyd Williams to captain the side from scrum-half. Rey Lee-Lo and Alex Cuthbert are also back among the three-quarters, while Kristian Dacey comes in at hooker. The remaining changes see a new-look second row pairing of Seb Davies and Damian Welch, while Josh Navidi replaces namesake Josh Turnbull in the back row.
Team news (Dragons): While the Dragons have been hit by plenty of injuries, Jackman has stuck with largely the same side that beat the Southern Kings last weekend. The only change sees Hallam Amos shift from the wing to full-back, with Jared Rosser earning his first start for the region out wide.
Dragons and Wales Under-20s hooker Liam Belcher is set for his debut after being named on the bench.
Talking points: The Blues have had the edge over the Dragons in recent meetings between the sides, winning five in a row in the league.
Although the Dragons did beat their near neighbours in European competition in March 2015, the domestic encounters between the two have often gone Cardiff’s way.
Despite that, Blues boss Danny Wilson is only too aware of the challenge facing his team.
He said: “We’ve got a reasonably good record against them so far but we know exactly what it’s going to take to beat a gritty Dragons side at home, and we’re under no illusions.
“It’s a Welsh derby. It’s got enough edge and spice to it, as they always have, and I’m sure it will be an excellent game on Friday night.
“I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve performed. They’ve picked up two good wins at home, are playing some good rugby and there are some young players that have come through and started to become established players at the Dragons.”
Key Battle: Rhun Williams v Hallam Amos
While full-backs rarely face off directly, it’s hard not to be excited by the battle between Blues youngster Rhun Williams and opposite number Hallam Amos. The latter is one of the standout players for the Dragons and showed his finishing ability with a pair of tries last weekend. Now back at full-back, he will look to outshine Williams, the Wales Under-20s standout, who has impressed when given the opportunity by Wilson.
Key stat: The Dragons are searching for a first win on the road since March 2015, a run of 25 successive away games without a win.
Did you know? Only Scarlets full-back Leigh Halfpenny has scored more points than Gavin Henson after five rounds of the Guinness PRO14. With 47 points, Henson has fitted in seamlessly at the Dragons and will look to continue that record against one of his former sides.
Cardiff Blues: R Williams; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James; J Evans, L Williams; B Thyer, K Dacey, T Filise, S Davies, D Welch, J Navidi, O Robinson, N Williams
Replacements: M Rees, C Domachowski, K Assiratti, J Down, J Turnbull, T Williams, S Shingler, M Morgan
Dragons: H Amos, A Hewitt, T Morgan, J Dixon, J Rosser, G Henson, S Pretorius, B Harris, E Dee, L Brown, M Screech, C Hill, J Thomas, O Griffiths, J Benjamin.
Replacements: L Belcher, L Garrett, L Fairbrother, J Davies, A Wainwright, O Leonard, A O’Brien, W Talbot-Davies.
TV: BBC Sport Wales (KO: 7.35pm)
Match Officials – Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU) AR1: Dan Jones (WRU) AR2: Adam Jones (WRU) TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Cardiff Blues scored five second-half tries to grab a bonus point 43-29 victory over Welsh rivals Dragons.
The Dragons burst out of the blocks with first half tries from Adam Warren, Elliot Dee and George Gasson with Kristian Dacey getting the only reply for the Blues.
Matthew Morgan closed the gap to 21-17 at the start of the second half with Tom James, Alex Cuthbert, Jarrod Evans tries putting them ahead and in control.
Replacement Morgan added a sixth try at the death but there was still time for Lloyd Fairbrother to grab a try bonus point for the visitors from close range.
Winger Warren was on the end of a lovely backs move to score the Dragons first after just three minutes with Henson adding the extras.
Taufa’ao Filise was shown a yellow card for a high tackle in the build-up but that didn’t stop the Blues coming straight back into the game through Dacey.
It was the hooker’s 20th score for Cardiff Blues on his 70th start and with Evans knocking over the conversion the scores were level after nine minutes.
The Dragons though bounced straight back with Dee going over for his fourth try of the Guinness PRO14 season.
Evans responded with a penalty but a piece of individual brilliance from Tyler Morgan extended the Dragons lead, the outside centre offloading to George Gasson to dot down.
Henson’s third successful conversion gave the Dragons a 21-10 lead at half-time.
The Blues brought them right back into the match early in the second half as a long pass from Evans found Matthew Morgan who dived over with the fly-half converting.
But when the hosts were penalised by referee Nigel Owens at the scrum, Henson stepped up and made the score 24-17 to the Dragons from the tee.
Tom James then burst through a tiring Dragons defence for his 43rd try for the Blues on the hour mark to make it 24-22 but Evans missed the opportunity to level the scores.
Josh Navidi then grabbed an interception and looked to be away for a try only for Dragons’ Morgan to make an superb scrambling tackle and deny him the score.
The Blues weren’t to be denied for long though as Cuthbert muscled his way over for the hosts’ first try bonus point of the season and the lead for the first time in the match.
Evans then found space in midfield to burst through for the Blues’ fifth before Morgan added the icing on the cake after an excellent quick tap penalty from Tomos Williams.
Fairbrother forced his way over from close range to secure the try bonus point for the Dragons.