Ruddock's men put Blues on brink of Heineken exile

Newport Gwent Dragons 48 Cardiff Blues 25
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The Independent Online

It does not get much better than this for the fans at Rodney Parade. Never mind what guise the opposition from the capital -arrives under, they will forever be the dreaded Kaardiff. So when you not only beat your bitterest rivals but also score six tries, it is an occasion to be cherished.

With the Celtic League being used by the five Welsh regions as a qualifying competition for next season's Heineken Cup, this game was not merely about the Dragons' title hopes. It was also a must-win for the Blues if they were to avoid playing in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup for the first time.

Ranked fifth of the Welsh teams in the league, eight points adrift of the Ospreys, the Blues badly needed to win. Instead they had to suffer the indignity of the crowd chanting: "Parker Pen" with great glee in the final 10 minutes. To their credit, Martyn Williams' men did not buckle and Tom Shanklin's second try, seven minutes into injury time, earned them a bonus point and a slender hope of Heineken Cup survival if they can win their final three matches.

As for the Dragons, they stay within two points of leaders Ulster and the Llanelli Scarlets to guarantee an interesting end to the new Wales coach Mike Ruddock's year. Despite the distractions of having three different names, going into administration and having half their fans boycott the team's matches, Ruddock has fashioned a side that has won more games than anyone else in the Celtic League and has power up front and style behind.

It was the perfect blend of both those qualities that wore down the Blues and allowed the flanker Jason Forster and the wing Nathan Brew to run in two tries each, and Percy Montgomery to help himself to a try and 23 points. The Blues created enough chances to have given the scoreboard a different look, but when you are down, you are down.

Dragons: Tries J Forster 2, N Brew 2, P Montgomery, A Marinos; Conversions P Montgomery 6; Penalties P Montgomery 2. Blues: Tries T Shanklin 2, M Williams, J Robinson; Conversion N Robinson; Penalty N Robinson.

Dragons: S Tuipilotu; N Brew (B Breeze 77), P Montgomery, A Marinos (capt), H Luscombe; C Warlow (L Jarvis 79), G Baber (R Jones 69); A Black (R Snow 69), K Crawford, C Anthony (R Thomas 58), I Gough, P Sidoli, R Skinstad, J Forster (J Ringer 69), M Owen.

Blues: R Williams; T Shanklin, J Robinson, I Harris, C Morgan (M Allen 41); N Robinson, R Powell; J Yapp (D Crompton 63), R Thomas (A Lewis 59), B Evans , C Quinnell, J Brownrigg, D Baugh, M Williams (capt), N Thomas.

Referee: O Trevor (Ireland).

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