Cardiff scraped past the Dragons on Friday night, winning a game marred by two red cards 19-18.
The visitors took the lead in the opening exchanges, pushing the Dragons off their own ball on the edge of the 22 before Dean Ryan’s side jumped offside. Rhys Priestland did not miss from the tee.
But the game descended into a drab, error-strewn contest with neither side able to make it to their opponent’s 22, let alone manufacture a discernable chance. Handling errors and scrappiness were scuppering the encounter at almost every turn before things got a little bit lively.
In the 16th minute, Dragons lock Joe Davies entered a tackle area to support a team-mate and clear out Wales prop Rhys Carre, who was having a mixed evening. Despite having plenty of the prop’s body to aim at, Davies went for the head, made direct contact and was shown the red card he deserved.
Around 10 minutes later, promising young Dragons fly-half Will Reed clipped over a long-range penalty after the hosts’ seven-man scrum got a decision from referee Craig Evans but the game was still struggling to spark into life.
Cardiff wing Owen Lane provided it, though, just after the half hour mark. Running back a loose kick from Jordan Williams, Lane sped outside Jack Dixon and drew the last man before giving Lloyd Williams a simple run-in for his fourth try in four games.
But minutes later, Cardiff were reduced to 14 men. Diminutive Dragons pivot Reed stepped back against the grain and was half-tackled when Cardiff hooker Liam Belcher flew into the tackle, wildly out of control, and clattered the 20-year-old in the side of the head. One of the ugliest tackles of the year brought another red from referee Evans.
From the ensuing penalty, the Dragons went for the scrum and No.8 Ollie Griffiths picked down the blindside to power his way over. With Reed off for a head injury assessment, Sam Davies added the extras and the scores were level at half time.
Cardiff regained the lead early in the second half when Ben Fry was penalised for going off his feet and Priestland, who missed two long range efforts in the third quarter of the match, split the uprights. But the game slipped back into the wilderness.
A dreary second half meandered its way through the hour mark with no incident to speak of. And then the Dragons sprung into life.
Some lovely passing from Jordan Williams and Adam Warren sent Rio Dyer speeding into the 22. A phase later, Reed and Williams were linking up again to eventually put Jack Dixon in space on the far side. He powered through three defenders to score on the far side to put the hosts into the lead.
It was short-lived, however. Aki Seiuli was pinged for not rolling away and up stepped Priestland, in front of the baying fans on the terrace, to boot his side into the lead before extending it to four points with another penalty shortly after.
Cardiff were penalised for obstruction from the restart, though, and Reed stepped up to clip over a penalty of his own from 35 metres out to make it a one-point game with five minutes remaining.
The young fly-half had a late opportunity to cap what had been a flawless performance up until that point but pushed a last-minute long range penalty wide of the uprights and Cardiff squeezed home.
Dragons : Jordan Williams, Rio dyer, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Jared Rosser, Will Reed, Gonzalo Bertranou; Aki Seiuli, Elliot Dee, Mesake Doge, Joe Davies, Ben Carter, Harri Keddie (CAPT), Ben Fry, Ollie Griffiths
Reps : Taylor Davies, Greg Bateman, Lloyd Fairbrother, Huw Taylor, Taine Basham, Rhodri Williams, Sam Davies, Josh Lewis
Cardiff Rugby : Matthew Morgan, Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango: Rhys Priestland, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Matthew Screech, James Botham, Josh Navidi (CAPT), James Ratti
Reps : Kirby Myhill, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins, Ellis Bevan, Ben Thomas, Mason Grady