A fine second half performance by the Blue & Blacks failed to turn around a 10-point interval deficit as Llanelli held on at Stradey Park.
There was much to commend Cardiff's lively comeback based on a much better scrum in the closing stages and Chris Stamatakis' usual quota of poached opposition lineout throws.
Unfortunately when the chips were down it was an inability to exploit overlaps or indeed off-load the ball in the tackle that limited Cardiff's point-scoring to a forward rumble and converted try claimed by Nick Hampson very late in the game.
There was also the frustration of being sucked into a game of slow-ball rugby that referee James Jones did little to correct. This immaculately turned out arbiter hails from Pencoed: cue a spiky hairdo to follow last season's silver boots but there is no news yet of an autobiography as he sets out on his career. If and when it appears this game is unlikely to warrant inclusion in a chapter on My Finest Matches. Former Cardiff flanker Johnathan Edwards was having a field day in the scarlet shirt as he was invariably first to the breakdown at which point the play often seemed to slip into slow motion.
Cardiff, though, have no one to blame but themselves for a somnolent first 40 minutes that were played out almost exclusively in their territory. Llanelli scored from the kick-off, with the swiftest of penalties awarded to them then benefiting from an extra 10 metres for Blue & Blacks backchat. Fly-half Ceiron Thomas had no problem in slotting a 30-metre goal.
One or two attacks built on Richard Jones crossing the gain-line produced nothing but the longer the half went on and the more that Cardiff were on the back foot the more impressive new full back Jamie Roberts looked. His touch-kicking was literally high and handsome and he covered the last line of defence well. At 6'5" and 15st 5lbs he will pose a potent attacking threat, too, on days when the side has more possession.
To Cardiff's credit the defensive line was only breached once in the first half, Gavin Quinnell powering over from a close range penalty tap for Thomas to convert.
On the brink of the interval Cardiff carried the ball into a ruck but Geraint Morris was sin-binned for then joining the same ruck from the side. It was that sort of day. Immediately after the restart Llanelli created a fine try, Paul Mackey bursting through midfield for full back Nick Jones to touch down.
The remaining 30 minutes was largely a tale of Cardiff getting so near yet so far. Nick Hampson was halted at the last moment as he appeared to be breaking clear to the home posts and debutant centre Jonathan Hill was held inches short of the line.
Finally a good forward drive carried the ball over Llanelli's line and Hampson got the final touch. Chris Anderson converted but it was the classic case of too little, too late.