For 20 minutes at Sardis Road this afternoon the Blue & Blacks seemed set for a belated Christmas present. Pontypridd were making a decent fist of being the perfect hosts: their kick-off to start the match went straight into touch for a scrum back on halfway; turnover balls were presented as if they were going out of fashion; and when wing Chris Clayton crossed for what looked for all the world like the opening try he promptly dropped the ball over the line. To cap it all referee David R Davies awarded four consecutive penalties to the Blue & Blacks without any against them.
Only two of them were within kicking range and Chris Anderson duly goaled the first. As if to underline his side's growing confidence the second opportunity was spurned and the fly-half drilled the ball into the left corner. From there the lineout was won and Jamie Roberts burst into the line in the inside centre position and raced over under the posts without the proverbial hands being laid on him. Anderson converted easily and Cardiff were ten points ahead.
There were no sightings of flying pigs but soon reality kicked in as Ponty camped deep in Cardiff territory for the second quarter. But still the script was going wrong. Roberts flattened scrum-half Gareth Jones in a one-on-one scenario in his own 22 and when the home side were eventually awarded their first penalty of the game in the 22nd minute Jason Pocock blasted the attempted goal wide from in front of the posts.
The mini-festive season of giving rather than receiving was, however, about to end. Three minutes later Richard Langmead took over the goalkicking duties from the injured and departed Pocock and succeeded with a short-range kick. Cardiff continued to hold on until the final five minutes of the half. The intense pressure finally told as the Blue & Blacks ran out of defenders and Tom Riley crossed near the right corner. Then in the last play of the half a missed touch kick proved very expensive. Replacement full-back Morgan Stoddard collected the ball near the right touchline on halfway and two long passes later Matthew Nuthall was scoring near the left corner flag having been powered the last few metres with the aid of the outstanding Ponty back row.
Cardiff's pack was not without its own heroes. James Malpas, Mark Lewis and Chris Stamatakis never flinched from the challenge and James Goode as ever ruled the lineout. The 10-13 interval deficit could have been cancelled out two minutes into the second half but a 30-metre penalty goal from Anderson sailed wide. Nothing summed up Cardiff's lack of a cutting edge better than a passage of four phases that went right, left and right, left again across the pitch before the move finally fizzled out with turnover ball conceded 30 metres behind the original gain line.
Open-side flanker Rhys Shellard showed Cardiff's backs how it should have been done with a swingeing break through the midfield that resulted in a fine try for Dafydd Lockyer. Langmead converted and exchanged penalty goals with Anderson. When Anderson then kicked another goal to bring the score back to 16-23 there was still the glimmer of hope of an unlikely draw.
A possible overlap was wasted when the ball was kicked away and, to rub salt in the wounds, a speculative Ponty punt was not cleared from near the Cardiff line and Riley pounced on it for his side's fourth try. The festive generosity was now going very much in the other direction.