Despite another impressive scrum-half performance by Darren Allinson and a hat-trick for new try machine Thomas James, the Blue & Blacks failed to continue their early season winning run. The Talbot Athletic Ground has rarely been a happy hunting ground in recent seasons and this match proved to be no exception.
Cardiff led 14-13 at the interval after Craig Evans had converted the first two of James' touchdowns but, in the end, paid dearly for rejecting an early penalty goal opportunity after falling behind 10-0, electing for a lineout in the corner that they duly lost, and, incredibly, an inexplicable spilling of the ball in full flight that would have given James yet another try.
Still, there were some glimmers of light after last season's abject capitulation on the same ground. The front row held their own in the scrums, lineout ball was secure thoughout and, yes, Allinson is going from strength to strength at the pack's heels. The jury remains out on the outside backs where, despite James' virtuoso try tally, too many balls were spilled or overlaps unexploited.
Unusually in a campaign where the likes of Gareth Gravell, Gareth Lucas and Ross Johnston have added steel to a pack in which the two Chris's, Stamatakis and Jones, continue to do well, Cardiff were outsmarted in the closing stages when the streetwise Dan Hawkins joined the fray as a replacement Wizard. What he lacks in size the pint-sized scrum-half makes up for in chatter as, not for the first time, he established a non-stop dialogue with the official referee. It was no coincidence that from then on several 50-50 decisions went against the Blue & Blacks.
The ultimate frustration was a controversial try for Richard Carter after scrappy play and errors by both sides that culminated in the winger being awarded a touchdown that had all the hallmarks of a final knock-on rather than the 'off the foot' interpretation of the match officials. Yet there was no denying the brilliance of home full-back Liam Gadd's play, aptly rewarded by a fourth-minute try. Aberavon's other try scorer was replacement hooker Chris Wells while teenage fly-half James Garland marked his debut with 15 points from the boot.
An ever-positive Justin Burnell reflected afterwards, "We are improving our game, but there is still a long way to go. We have to be clinical and we are trying to play expansively. We are committed to playing good rugby."