Dragons under-18 came out on top of a 12-try thriller as Cardiff Blues under-18’s campaign came to an end with a defeat at Merthyr’s The Wern on Monday evening.
Heading into the encounter on the back of three consecutive victories, the hosts, led by returning skipper Gwilym Evans, were looking to put the icing on top of a positive block of fixtures.
The run included a convincing win over Dragons in the reverse fixture at Ystrad Mynach, but the visitors arrived at The Wern with revenge on their minds.
However, despite an impressive comeback following an early set-back, the home side ultimately fell to defeat after Dragons regained control in the final quarter.
The away pack instantly put their stamp on the game at Merthyr RFC, allowing Matt O’Brien’s side to control both territory and possession in the opening exchanges.
They were rewarded for their early dominance as centre Oli Andrew picked his angle to crash over from Che Hope’s flat ball.
They doubled their advantage moments later as the forwards set-up a strong driving line-out, which saw referee Craig Evans running under the sticks to award a penalty try.
Dragons remained in the ascendency and crossed the whitewash once again to make it 21 unanswered points. After a period of sustained pressure on the Cardiff try-line, it seemed like full back Cameron Winnett had saved the day with a strip, but his opposite number, Sam Gibson, pounced on the loose ball to touch down.
Coach Dan Fish didn’t mince his words when the hosts regathered under the sticks, and they bounced back in impressive fashion.
Despite a deliberate knock on by the visitors in midfield, Mackenzie Martin picked up the loose possession, spun out of a challenge and found Evans in support.
The back row fed Ryan Wilkins on his inside, who burst through and attempted a spectacular offload over his head. The Dragons’ covering defence were unable to gather, allowing Wilkins’ midfield partner, Louie Hennessey-Booth, to dive over.
The try saw momentum swing in Cardiff’s way, and they crossed for a quickfire second when impressive full back Winnett sliced the visitors’ defence open with a show-and-go to register his name on the score-sheet.
In the first couple of minutes of the second half, they added a third to draw back within two points as referee Evans this time awarded the hosts a penalty try following a dominant set piece.
The comeback was complete as Harrison James and Hennessey-Booth combined to create space down the left hand side, and Amir Saleh was on-hand to take the final pass and slide in the corner.
However, the lead proved short-lived as the visitors responded with a Ryan Woodman score. It swung the direction of the encounter as the result was put beyond doubt when number eight Ben Moa dotted down.
Replacement playmaker James did add three points from the tee following on-field confusion regarding the score-line.
However, while captain Evans did pull one back for Cardiff, Ollie Edwards and Frankie Souto both crossed in the final moments to complete the scoring and secure the win for the visitors.