THE Dragons were denied a perfect start to the Rainbow Cup after being edged out 17-16 by Cardiff Blues at the death in the capital.

Dean Ryan’s men headed to the Arms Park on the back of a crushing win against the Scarlets at Rodney Parade but failed to keep up with Munster and Benetton, who are two from two.

Whether that will truly bother the Dragons is debatable - the prospect of a Rainbow Cup final extending an already long season isn't the most attractive.

But they will be annoyed at their lack of a killer streak after bossing the second half only to be hit by a close-range winner by lock Teddy Williams.

The Dragons trailed 10-3 at the break after a try by Josh Adams to celebrate his Lions call.

However, they were a different team in the second half thanks to going direct and winning collisions to negate the Blues’ breakdown threat.

Wales back Owen Lane was red-carded for a dangerous, late hit on scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou and the Dragons made the hosts pay to lead 13-10 thanks to a close-range try by replacement hooker Rhys Lawrence and Sam Davies’ left boot.

They had a spell against 13 men courtesy of a yellow card for Cardiff wing Jason Harries for a deliberate knock-on.

Davies made it 16-10 only for the home side to inch back in front with six minutes left courtesy of a try from lock Teddy Williams, with Lawrence shown red for a dangerous hit on Josh Turnbull in the build-up.

The Dragons had a shot to snatch back the lead only for Davies to push a long-range effort wide, leaving them to lament one that got away against their fiercest rivals.

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After a low-key start it was Cardiff that went into the lead after a patient 10th minute attack, with fly-half Ben Thomas prominent when carrying flat, ended with soon to be Lions wing Josh Adams cutting a lovely line to go over.

Thomas converted and then Sam Davies missed a chance to chip away at the deficit when he pulled a central penalty in blustery conditions.

The Dragons lost lock Matthew Screech, who is returning to the Arms Park next season, to injury and were 10-0 down when Jamie Roberts were pinged for a deliberate knock-on in the 20th minute.

The visitors had barely fired a shot but applied some pressure on the half hour in an attack in which lively Taine Basham was prominent.

A penalty was awarded five metres out – it must have been close to a yellow card – and it was kicked to the corner only for the Blues to stop the drive and win a turnover, a theme of the half.

The Dragons kept the squeeze on in the 22 only to then be denied by a jackal by tighthead Dillon Lewis to earn a penalty.

They did, however, have the final say of the half when Davies popped over a penalty from 40 metres to make it 10-3.

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There was a piece of Dragons history in the first minute of the second half when captain Ross Moriarty made a challenge, asking referee Mike Adamson to have a close look at a late hit on Basham by his former teammate Cory Hill.

Nothing was given and the visitors lost their challenge, which is one of the PRO14 law trials.

The Dragons had started with more intent though and put the pressure on with direct running in the 22, with Wales prop Leon Brown getting his hands on the ball a number of times.

Playing with penalty advantage, the ball was spread to the left where Bertranou was clattered by Lane.

After a lengthy review of the footage, the Wales international was shown red and the Dragons went for the kill in the 20-minute period against 14 men (another law trial meant Lane could then be replaced by a teammate).

They kicked a penalty to the corner and while the drive was stopped, hooker Lawrence couldn’t be stopped from close range.

Davies added the simple conversion to make it level-pegging and the Dragons remained on the front foot.

Aaron Wainwright went close with a powerful drive off the back of a scrum but the penalty came and their fly-half put the visitors into the lead for the first time after 54 minutes.

The game was all being played towards Westgate Street and the Dragons had a spell against 13 men when wing Jason Harries was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

Opting for a scrum, they should have been over for a second try given their numerical advantage but wing Jonah Holmes was dragged down short and home forward Josh Turnbull came up with a huge turnover on his line to keep it at 13-10 inside the final quarter.

Another penalty just inside the Blues half allowed Davies, with the wind at his back, to make it 16-10 after 69 minutes.

However, the Dragons made a mess of the restart and were put under pressure for the first time in the second half.

It was 15 versus 15 and Cardiff were back in front after 74 minutes when strong carrying led to a try by lock Williams and a conversion by Jarrod Evans.

Not only that, but Lawrence was sent off for a hit on the head of Turnbull in the build-up.

However, the 14 men swiftly had a shot for the lead only for Davies to push an effort from the tee just wide from inside his own half.

It was as close as they came, leaving the Dragons having to settle for a losing bonus.

Cardiff Blues scorers: tries – J Adams, T Williams; conversions – B Thomas, J Evans; penalty – B Thomas Dragons scorers: tries – R Lawrence; conversion – S Davies; penalties – S Davies (3).