NEWPORT Gwent Dragons’ hopes of avoiding the ignominy of being Wales’ worst region suffered a blow when Cardiff Blues edged out the Scarlets 17-13 at the Millennium Stadium.
The region from the Arms Park triumphed next door in the first game at Judgement Day thank to a try by Wales wing Alex Cuthbert and 12 points from the boot of fly-half Gareth Davies.
A late try by Ken Owens, adding to Rhys Priestland’s first half effort, made it a tense finale but the Scarlets were unable to snatch the spoils from a game that they never led.
The men from the capital were worthy winners of a tight tussle that saw a pair of red cards; Blues number eight Robin Copeland was dismissed for stamping on the head of Scarlets full-back Liam Williams, who was given a second yellow for cynically slowing the ball down close to his line.
And the four points puts the Blues – who have now won three on the spin after successes against Ulster and Edinburgh – six clear of the Dragons ahead of their clash with the Ospreys in Cardiff.
The Blues led 14-8 at the break but the Scarlets wouldn’t have been too disappointed with that after a dire first 40 minutes.
The ‘hosts’ started swiftly and were rewarded when Cuthbert sneaked over from close range down the left.
The Wales wing was then clattered by international teammate Williams when fielding a high ball with the Scarlets full-back fortunate to be shown a yellow card by referee Ian Davies rather than a red one. He had to wait to be given his marching orders.
Cardiff fly-half Davies knocked over a pair of penalties to make it 11-0 before the west Walians grabbed a lifeline, lock Jake Ball going on the run from a charge down to put Rhys Priestland under the sticks.
The Wales number 10 inexplicably struck the left upright with the conversion and then traded penalties with opposite number Davies before the break.
There were no additions to the score before the pair of red cards on 55 minutes and it was the Blues that responded better, putting the Scarlets under pressure as they looked for a score that would put them clear.
It should have come in the 62nd minute only for Davies to hook a penalty from 35 metres out in front of the sticks.
That would have made it a more comfortable conclusion but instead it was up for grabs when, just minutes after going on a bullocking run down the right touchline, Scarlets hooker Ken Owens peeled off a driving lineout to cross on the left touchline.
Replacement fly-half Steve Shingler missed the tricky conversion and it was 14-13 to the men from the capital with seven minutes left.
Davies stretched that lead with a penalty and the Blues held firm at the death as the Scarlets laid siege to their line.
Blues scorers: try – Alex Cuthbert; penalties – G Davies (4)
Scarlets scorers: tries – K Owens, R Priestland; penalty – R Priestland