NEWPORT Gwent Dragons qualified for finals day of the Premiership Rugby 7s but were controversially denied victory of the Welsh leg at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
The Rodney Parade region beat the Scarlets and the Ospreys but conceded a pair of converted tries in the last 90 seconds to draw 19-19 with Cardiff Blues.
The last of those was a penalty try – much to the disgust of the Dragons coaching staff – and it meant the hosts topped the group courtesy of an extra bonus point.
Nonetheless, second place means Nick Wakley’s team will now lock horns with six English opponents – to be decided by three groups in Gloucester, Northampton and Newcastle on Thursday, Friday and Saturday – at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday, August 8.
The Dragons started with a 21-14 win against the Scarlets courtesy of try at the death by Newport winger Elliot Frewen, who showed the finishing prowess that has made him such a hit with the Black and Ambers.
The Rodney Parade region raced into a 14-0 lead courtesy of tries by Rhys Jones and Cross Keys’ Jonny Lewis, with the former banging over a pair of majestic touchline conversions.
Back came the Scarlets and tries by Lee Rees and ex-Ebbw Vale fly-half Josh Lewis levelled it up before Frewen jinked over for a super score.
That meant a win against the Ospreys, who had been drubbed 33-21 by Cardiff Blues in the opener, would put them within touching distance of the Twickenham Stoop.
They got the perfect start when Matthew Pewtner burst through some tackles inside his own 22 before going the distance, although at one stage it looked like the regional winger would be embarrassingly hauled in by hooker Evan Yardley.
Rhys Jones converted from under the posts and that gave them the edge at half-time as the Ospreys could not improve a try in the left corner by former Pontypool number eight Morgan Allen.
But it was all Dragons after the break and tries by Wales Under-20s openside Ollie Griffiths, Pewtner and a cracking team score finished off by Frewen earned the bonus point before Jonny Lewis put the icing on the cake.
The 31-5 win meant that a Cardiff Blues win would put Wakley’s young charges through to finals day – for once those from Rodney Parade were cheering for the men from the Arms Park.
And the side from the capital triumphed 22-7 to ensure the final game of the tournament, after the Scarlets smashed the Ospreys 61-28, would decide who topped the table.
Cardiff Blues got their noses in front courtesy of Ellis Wyn Benham’s score but it was a keen contest between two teams with far superior defences to their west Walian rivals.
However, the Dragons finally broke through with the final play of the half when their star men combined, Rhys Jones putting Frewen over for a 7-5 lead.
Player of the tournament Pewtner stretch that lead a minute after the restart when he hit the line powerfully for Rhys Jones to grab another assist, although the try came at a cost with the winger helped from the field after injuring his right ankle.
Ollie Griffiths raced over for a score that should have secured victory only for Dorian Jones to miss the simple conversion.
It was costly, as the Blues struck back at the death with 14 points in the last 90 seconds courtesy of Tom Williams’ score and the penalty try for not retreating 10 metres.
Dragons squad: Sam Cross (captain), Matthew Pewtner, Dorian Jones, Owen Davies, Jonny Lewis, Elliot Frewen, Lewis Hudd, Rhys Jones, James Thomas, Harri Keddie, James Benjamin, Ollie Griffiths.
Versus Scarlets (21-14): R Jones, J Lewis, E Frewen
Versus Ospreys (31-5): M Pewtner (2), O Griffiths, E Frewen, J Lewis
Versus Cardiff Blues (19-19): E Frewen, M Pewtner, O Griffiths
Scores: Cardiff Blues 33 Ospreys 21, Newport Gwent Dragons 21 Scarlets 14, Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Ospreys 5, Cardiff Blues 22 Scarlets 7, Scarlets 61 Ospreys 28, Cardiff Blues 19 Newport Gwent Dragons 19