Flanker Ben White scored the only try of a scrappy Welsh derby at the Arms Park on Wednesday as Cardiff Blues edged out Newport Gwent Dragons to remain a single point behind Magners League leaders Leinster.
Riding high in the table and having lost just one of their last 15 games at home, Cardiff were heavily favoured to beat the Dragons and with a good deal to spare.
But Paul Turner’s Dragons side, with only one win in their last eight outings, put in a determined display that saw them keep the hosts to just one try and they were well worth their losing bonus point.
Gaining an early territorial advantage, the Blues pressed and probed but they had to wait until the 14th-minute to open the scoring courtesy of a penalty from fit-again fly-half Nick Macleod.
Five minutes later, Aled Thomas opened the Dragons’ account with a well-struck penalty and while Cardiff continued to look the more potent, the scoreline remained at 3-3 for half-time.
The fact that the Dragons kept on terms was all the more impressive given that they lost both props, Gethin Robinson and Adam Black, to the sin-bin within 30 seconds of each other.
With their defence becoming increasingly stretched, the visitors infringed at ruck time leaving referee Hugh Watkins with little option but to reach for his yellow card.
However, facing 13 men and uncontested scrums, the Blues failed to raise their game for the remainder of the opening half with their handling and decision-making letting them down on a number of occasions.
The closest the Blues got to crossing the whitewash before the break was when flanker Robin Sowden-Taylor burst over from close range but the attack was called back for crossing.
In a patternless game that never hit the heights of previous festive crackers, Thomas missed a decent chance to kick the Dragons in front and Macleod soon showed his opposite number how it is done at the other end.
6-3 in front, Cardiff soon put flanker Ben White over for the defining score of the match. It came after 63 minutes and after the Dragons’ defence fell asleep.
White was allowed to tear through the middle of a lineout in the visitors’ 22 and he made the whitewash, with television match official James Jones confirming the try.
Macleod missed the conversion but the Blues had done enough over the first hour to merit the win – their fifth success in their last six meetings with the Dragons.
The game was soured somewhat in the 76th-minute when both sides had a player sent-off. Blues lock Paul Tito and Dragons number 8 Joe Bearman were dismissed for fighting, with Ceri Sweeney’s penalty kick, just moments later, the last score of a disappointing game.