THE rain may have bucketed down at a sodden Rodney Parade but the Dragons’ Guinness PRO14 derby drought stretched past three years after they left it too late against Cardiff Blues.

Earlier this season in the capital they hit the front with some dazzling rugby only to run out of steam. In Newport they only started playing when their backs were against the wall at 22-3 down with half an hour remaining.

It means that the new era in Gwent has had a familiar feel in the first year of the Bernard Jackman regime.

Away losses in Cardiff and Swansea last autumn have now been followed by a loss in Newport to the Blues, who were allowed to build a commanding lead in the rain.

Tries by Aled Summerhill, Rey Lee-Lo and Tom James made it 18 successive derby defeats in the PRO14 since the Boxing Day win at the Arms Park.

The Dragons came storming back with a cracking finish by replacement tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother and a penalty try after a strong driving lineout but they only got Rodney Parade rocking in the closing stages.

If they are to stop it being 19 on the spin against the Ospreys on New Year’s Eve then they need to pick up where they left off to give the home faithful plenty to roar about.

The Dragons will be left to lament a high error count in the incessant rain, plus a failure to take their chances when the game was tight and scoreless.

Despite the raging at referee Andrew Brace from the terraces in the second half, it was that profligacy that led to the Blues being able to sing the Cardiff victory song to Sloop John B as the crowd trudged home in the pouring rain.

It means that the Rodney Parade region are still waiting to make a big statement of the Jackman era and they must now dust themselves down for a crack at the men from the Liberty Stadium.

They had made waves off the field and in the transfer market – especially through attracting Gloucester’s Ross Moriarty and Richard Hibbard to Newport – but have not yet enjoyed a win to make everyone sit up and take notice, despite some encouraging displays.

Nor were they able to give a bumper crowd too much to remember with an on-field marketing charm offensive.

The attendance was given as a capacity 8,722 (tickets sold, there were understandably some gaps in uncovered areas of the ground) but the weather ensured the punters didn’t get much enterprise and invention to go with the derby endeavour.

The Dragons had a double let-off in the opening stages when fly-half Gavin Henson was intercepted by Blues centre Garyn Smith and then, after the hosts were subsequently offside, Gareth Anscombe pulled a routine shot at goal.

Kickers couldn’t afford to be so wasteful in greasy conditions that led to an error-strewn start by both teams.

The Dragons were next to have a big chance after being awarded a five-metre scrum when it was adjudged that wing Summerhill had knocked the ball over the deadball line rather than opposite number Ashton Hewitt in the tussle for a grubber by full-back Hallam Amos.

A trio of set piece penalties were awarded by Irish official Brace – leading to a yellow card for Blues loosehead Bradley Thyer and the introduction of Wales legend Gethin Jenkins – but then the chance went when the ball was moved from the base and then knocked on by prop Sam Hobbs.

It was an opening quarter extremely low on quality or entertainment for the bumper crowd and there was another lengthy, but worthy stoppage, when Mr Brace stopped play when Jenkins suffered a blow after getting his head on the wrong side of a James Sheekey carry.

The Dragons had another big chance when a cracking grubber by Charlie Davies forced wing Owen Lane to carry the ball out five metres shy of the line.

However, the hosts’ weapon of choice this season – the driving lineout – was superbly defended and the opportunity went begging.

Instead it was the Blues who struck first through the right peg of Anscombe when captain Cory Hill picked up a loose ball from an offside position; almost half an hour of home dominance and they trailed.

And it was 8-0 on the stroke of half-time when the Dragons were the victims of a freak try.

Lane bumped off Henson and carried to within five metres of the line before offloading. The ball bounced off Dragons lock Joe Davies to Summerhill, who showed composure and nice footwork to go over down the left.

Anscombe missed the tough conversion badly – making it eight points that had gone begging – and Henson made up for an unusually sloppy personal first half when he got the hosts on the scoreboard in the 40th minute after a high tackle on Charlie Davies.

But the Blues were in total command in the 52nd minute when they crossed for a second try after a scrum penalty, lineout drive and close-range carries ended with centre Rey Lee-Lo exploiting Henson being out of position.

Anscombe converted for 15-3 and Henson was then wide from the tee after a Matthew Rees shoulder charge on dummy runner Ashton Hewitt.

The Dragons were in need of inspiration yet it instead came from the man with 15 on the back of a pink and navy jersey.

Matthew Morgan stood up Hewitt in the 22 and shipped the ball on for Wales wing Tom James to slide over for a score that Anscombe converted for 22-3.

The Dragons had a sniff when replacement tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother finished marvellously after a dummy inside the 22 with Henson’s conversion making it 22-10 with quarter of an hour to play.

One brought two and a penalty was kicked to close to the line by replacement fly-half Angus O’Brien and his pack responded.

Elliot Dee hit Wales teammate Cory Hill and the drive was stopped illegally, leading to Mr Brace awarding a penalty try and showing a yellow to Kirby Myhill.

The Dragons had six minutes to save themselves but lost momentum and field position when they failed to gather the restart cleanly.

They managed to work their way up field and had one last chance, only for the Blues to steal a lineout 40 metres out and resist the Dragons’ late charge.

Dragons: H Amos (L Belcher 75), A Hewitt, A Warren (J Rosser), J Dixon, P Howard, G Henson (A O’Brien 65), C Davies (S Pretorius 52), S Hobbs (T Davies 52), E Dee, N Thomas (L Fairbrother 40), J Davies (R Landman 61), C Hill (captain), A Wainwright, J Benjamin, J Sheekey (B Roach 48).

Scorers: tries – L Fairbrother, penalty try; conversion – G Henson; penalties – G Henson

Cardiff Blues: M Morgan, O Lane, G Smith, R Lee-Lo, A Summerhill (G Jenkins 14-19, K Myhill 19-24, T James 52), G Anscombe, T Williams (L Williams 70), B Thyer, M Rees (captain, K Myhill 62), K Assiratti (S Andrews 52), S Davies, M Cook (D Welch 62), J Navidi, O Robinson, N Williams (J Turnbull 65).

Scorers: tries – A Summerhill, R Lee-Lo, T James; conversions – G Anscombe (2), penalty – G Anscombe

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)

Attendance: 8,722 (tickets sold)

Argus star man: Elliot Dee