THE Dragons were beaten 13-12 by Cardiff Blues in a dour Guinness PRO14 derby at Rodney Parade.

Josh Lewis kicked the Dean Ryan's men into a 12-3 lead early in the second half but they were then pinned inside their half by the men from the capital.

Jarrod Evans booted a second penalty and then converted a try by Josh Turnbull with 12 minutes left to secure the spoils for the Blues, their 11th win against the Dragons on the spin.

Here are the talking points from Rodney Parade…

South Wales Argus:

Sound of silence 

The Dragons returned from lockdown to finish 2019/20 against the Ospreys and Scarlets, then they faced Bristol in a European Challenge Cup quarter-final.

At the start of this month there was another big clash when Wasps visited Rodney Parade in the Champions Cup to end a decade in the second tier.

The Dragons have played 12 fixtures since August, all of them behind closed doors, but this time it was really felt.

Normally Boxing Day derbies are great events, even if the rugby is as poor as it was on this occasion.

There would have been between 7 to 8,000 people at Rodney Parade instead of around 100 and perhaps their presence would have given a lift to the rugby.

“You miss the buzz, it’s such a shame,” said Dragons captain Jamie Roberts. “All the players would have loved to play in front of a sell-out crowd.

“Boxing Day games are about the fans, rugby and professional sport is about the fans. It’s a bit of an obvious statement but that gets brought into context on days like today.

“None of the lads have experienced a Boxing Day derby like that before and hopefully we never will again.

“I look forward to the next Boxing Day derby when half the crowd are drunk and the abuse comes flying out because Rodney Parade is a special place when it’s full and it’s not far for the Cardiff lot to travel.”

Maybe the Dragons could have prospered from a momentum-shifting tackle or the Blues would have lost their cool after making an error when chasing the game.

The absence of supporters impacted the sport and it has also hit the Dragons in the pocket; they normally have around 2,000 season ticket holders and this fixture would have attracted approaching 6,000 extra punters.

That’s a lot of pints that were drunk at home while watching S4C instead of at Rodney Parade.

South Wales Argus: Tavis Knoyle and Aaron Wainwright cheer a Blues mistakeTavis Knoyle and Aaron Wainwright cheer a Blues mistake

A game of few highlights 

The official PRO14 stats say it all: 29 penalties awarded by referee Craig Evans, no line breaks and just two offloads.

Dragons centre Jack Dixon and Blues flanker James Botham shared the honour as leading ball carriers… with just four.

Full-back Jonah Holmes made the most metres with 36, a paltry distance that was totted up in his run-ups for aerial bombs.

This was an awful, awful game and the weather can’t be totally blamed. It was wet on a heavy pitch when the Scarlets and Ospreys visited last season and it wasn’t just because the Dragons won at the death that made both of those derbies better occasions.

Yesterday’s back three featured serious pace in Holmes, Ashton Hewitt, Owen Jenkins, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos and Aled Summerhill.

Sadly, they were reduced to being kick-chasers. The Dragons didn't create a single try-scoring chance.

South Wales Argus:

Warnings but no yellows

The penalties flowed from the off with the Dragons earning a 9-0 lead courtesy of seven successive Cardiff Blues offences that was picked up by ref Evans.

It was then the hosts’ turn to get on the wrong side of the officials, a costly spell that ensured they only went into the break 9-3 up despite having the wind at their backs.

The Dragons’ scrum was on top in the first half and under pressure in the second, which allowed the Blues to put the squeeze on in the 22.

There were 29 penalties awarded in total, 17 against the Dragons and 12 against the Blues, yet nobody saw yellow.

Warning weren’t followed up with sin-binnings and post-whistle niggle went unpunished.

It’s unlikely that it would have improved the quality of rugby but offending players should have been sent for 10 minutes on the naughty step.

South Wales Argus:

Changes for round two

The Dragons need to up their game for Friday when they face the Scarlets, Wales’ best team with the biggest budget.

Tavis Knoyle and Josh Lewis did okay at half-back but Rhodri Williams, in isolation, and Sam Davies, out with a calf strain, were missed.

The absence of centre Nick Tompkins (compassionate leave) was not felt too badly given the conditions and Jack Dixon’s performance when carrying hard.

The Dragons will hope that either Joe Davies or Joe Maksymiw, who were excellent against Bordeaux-Begles’ heavy pack, will return for Llanelli because the lack of a specialist lock on the bench was a hindrance.

But as Dean Ryan said, there wasn’t a lot to be learnt from such a game in horrible conditions. This isn’t a case of going back to the drawing board, the Dragons just need to freshen up and go again.