View from the South Terrace: Dragons (A)

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If Jason Derulo was writing his 2014 moderately successful pop/RnB hit “Wiggle” about Boxing Day’s derby between Dragons and Cardiff at Rodney Parade, the lyrics would have been “niggle, niggle, niggle” ahead of the quite annoyingly catchy beat drop.

It was the Rags v Ponty at the Arms Park as my live game on the day, but the live commentary coming from my other half watching the first team game on iPlayer including consistent five-minutely updates of “there’s another fight”. Watching proceedings back the following day was just a magical experience as lads were needlessly tripping, over-celebrating and judo throwing all over the pitch.

Were Carlsberg to do festive Welsh derbies then this would be it as the niggle, plus the capacity crowd and how tense the game was were exactly what these occasions should be about, with the added bonus of some serious moments of quality and a dramatic late winner. Of course, it’s easier to be upbeat when that late winner goes your way, but I’m sure even long suffering Dragons fans will appreciate that game once the disappointment wears off.

For the Blue and Blacks it was a case of dig in and take your chances on the day. Both teams were incredibly evenly matched in the majority of areas; scrum, aerial, kicking, defensively, physically and pace-wise. As a result the fine margins were seen in just one or two scenarios across the park, and in the individual moments of brilliance.

Cardiff were distinctly second-best at the lineout, perhaps because it is in the club’s DNA now to look like bambi on ice when throwing the ball in, but made up for that with a dominant maul on both sides of the ball and a defensive breakdown game that suffocated the Dragons and gave us the platform to attack and counter attack from.

Then individually it was a lot of the big names that came good in a big game as Thomas Young put on a man-of-the-match showing at the breakdown, Taulupe Faletau came up big in attack and defence showing off all his class, Tomos Williams oozed quality throughout, Jarrod Evans looked at his Rolls Royce best in attack and came up clutch with a huge touch finder at the death, while Josh Adams was at his spiky, aggressive and clinical peak.

However, they weren’t the only ones who grabbed the headlines as Lopeti Timani played just a second full 80 minutes for the club and was imperious in the tight five, while there was also excellent impact off the bench with Will Davies-King putting in a big shift, Mason Grady catching the eye with an arcing outside line break, and Lloyd Williams rolling back the years with another glorious cameo on the wing.

In the end though it was Corey Domachowski who came up with the biggest moment of the afternoon, powering over from close range in the 79th minute to claim the win for Cardiff to spark a celebration that underlined what the victory meant to the team, and what the try meant to the replacement loosehead who has no doubt been left frustrated having been left to play a bit-part role behind Rhys Carre alongside Brad Thyer.

A price was paid by the Blue and Blacks with Dmitri Arhip, Rhys Priestland, Josh Adams and Theo Cabango all departing through injury, while Kris Dacey had withdrawn before the game, which leaves some nervous eyes being casted towards a New Year’s Day encounter with Ospreys who will arrive high on confidence and with the best pack in Wales which could cause us all sorts of problems.

For now though there’s the enjoyment of a 15th straight league win over the Dragons, a run that seems to live rent free in the heads of our rivals to the east as they collapse under the weight of possibly winning consistently despite generally being the better team for the majority of games in recent years.

With the Rags beating Pontypridd comfortably at the Arms Park to make it five straight wins in that fixture, it’s a good time to be a supporter of the Blue and Blacks in local derbies at the moment!

The perfect Boxing Day.

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