2005/2006 Principality Premiership
Cardiff 20 v 24 Pontypridd
12 May 2006 - Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff

Match Report

Cardiff 20 Pontypridd 24

After the springtime revival, the game and the season ended on a damp note at Taffs Well. Four tries to three in a narrow defeat may look respectable on paper but, in reality, too many old demons came back to haunt the Blue & Blacks on the final lap.

Missed tackles, needless penalties conceded, a nil return from goalkicks and, most of all, a porous defence was too reminiscent of early season shortcomings for comfort. Coach Howard Stone had rightly praised his young charges for their efforts in recent weeks. For the first 40 minutes against Pontypridd they appeared to be sleepwalking - and this after a sensational beginning with a try for Michael Leaman just 56 seconds after the kick-off.

Talk about flattering to decieve....Ponty dominated the next half -hour without being any great shakes themselves. Seemingly intent on exploiting perceived weaknesses out wide, they tried three times to put in crossfield kicks or more delicate grubbers that turned and stretched Cardiff's backs. Each time they spilled the final catch. Eventually they realised a more direct, man-on-man approach would be more productive. Sure enough, Morgan Stoddart shook off one powder-puff tackle for their first try and then right wing Daniel Hitchings meandered off on a cross-field diagonal that went on and on until he found Gavin Dacey on the far left and the centre crossed with ease.

With Paul Matthews kicking three penalty goals, the third after James Malpas was sin-binned, Ponty found themselves 19-5 ahead as the first half drifted into nine minutes of injury time. Thankfully, before the referee could signal the break, he awarded Cardiff their first penalty of the match (against seven to Ponty) to ironic cheers. Opting for a kick to the corner paid dividends as Chris Stamatakis completed the inevitable catch and drive for the try.

Ponty pulled away again early in the second half. Their centres, though blatently offide, charged into Tom Isaacs as he caught a high punt from Matthews, and the ball was recycled left for Chris Clayton to cross. That completed Ponty's scoring for the match and the season. The Blue & Blacks deserve credit for their efforts in the final half-hour, a far better reflection of recent form and character. Leaman, from another catch and drive, and replacement Jonathan Hill from a tap penalty that was spun wide, scored tries but neither was converted.

In all honesty, they had run out of attacking ideas in the closing stages and never threatened the further score that would have provided the perfect ending. But, nevertheless, the final third of the season, with seven wins in ten games - plus the increasing likelihood of new contracts and signings in the pipeline - should lift everyone's spirits ahead of the next campaign in four months' time.