There was no Christmas hangover at Rodney Parade as Jason Tovey led Newport Gwent Dragons to a 22-16 victory over Cardiff Blues in a breathless Boxing Day derby.
The fly-half kicked 17 points to lay the foundations while the magnificent Toby Faletau roared through for a score midway through the first half.
The Blues did respond through Kristian Dacey but Tovey’s boot told after the break, Leigh Halfpenny’s 11 points from the kicking tee proving in vain.
The Welsh rivals headed into the fixture in need of a remedy for their RaboDirect PRO12 form, having both won just one of their last five clashes in the tournament.
The hosts drew first blood, Tovey rounding off a blistering start by knocking a penalty between the posts with just two minutes on the clock.
And the Dragons were not about to take their foot off the pedal with a succession of scything breaks through a shell-shocked Blues line, Dan Evans going the closest to converting pressure into points.
It was on 16 minutes that the screw well and truly turned after Faletau snuck round the front of a Dragons lineout and collected the ball to canter home unchallenged – Tovey adding the extras.
Another scintillating passage of play, this time an interchange between Evans and Hallam Amos, nearly saw the latter run the whole length of the pitch but his chip over the last of the Blues’ defences was overhit.
The visitors hauled themselves back into the game in a blink of the eye after hooker Dacey showed a remarkable turn of pace to burst through the tackles and dot down, finishing a move engineered by Halfpenny.
But Evans was again causing havoc and deep into Blues territory managed to offload the ball to partner-in-crime Amos before hitting the turf – only for the teenage wing to be dragged into touch at the last.
For all of the home side’s attacking intent the Blues were looking dangerous in their rare moments of possession as Robin Copeland’s pick and go gained crucial yardage.
A penalty was eventually called and Halfpenny nailed his first chance of the match to tie the scores at the break and leave the Dragons ruing their profligacy.
A wonderfully-worked move – that would have seen home side centre Ashley Smith touch down – was crossed off the scoresheet shortly after the break as the TMO adjudged that Netani Talei was guilty of obstruction in the build-up.
Then Halfpenny, who was slowly becoming more influential in the game, was handed his second chance from the tee and obliged to hand the visitors the lead for the first time.
Mistakes were creeping into the game from both sides and this time the Dragons benefitted from ill-discipline at the breakdown, Tovey smashing over a penalty to lock up the scores once more.
Almost immediately after, Pat Leach found a huge hole in the Blues’ line and Tovey clocked his third penalty of the game when lock Macauley Cook was caught offside.
The visitors were beginning to show signs of weariness and things were made worse when Copeland was the recipient of a yellow card following another infringement by a Blue.
And, pinned back in their own territory, they were penalised for blocking to allow Tovey to kick through a simple effort on the hour mark.
In a matter of moments the 24-year-old was on hand to slot through his fifth of the evening, Phil Davies’ men being forced into errors after being pushed back behind the gainline.
Halfpenny finally got the opportunity to reduce the arrears with a penalty of his own as the away side sensed hope with ten minutes to go.
Lloyd Williams’ show and go exploited a chink in the Dragons’ armour but confusion at the breakdown brought the promise to a halt, while Gavin Evans also failed to haul the ball in with space ahead of him.
The Blues jabbed away deep into the Dragons’ half but a crucial turnover allowed the hosts to kick away from the danger zone to see the game out.