‘Failed to turn up’ took on a whole new meaning at the Brewery Field as a game that kicked-off 65 minutes late stuttered and stalled while going down hill fast on a cold and cheerless afternoon and early evening.
The Brewery Field these days has an eerie feel to it, never more so than this afternoon with the ground and bar deserted as the clock ticked around towards the advertised kick-off time of 2.30 pm and the referee and several players delayed by a motorway pile-up west of Bridgend.
Eventually everyone arrived, what turned out to be the flattest of games got underway against a backdrop of the ghostly and empty hospitality boxes at the far end, and with a small band of home supporters wailing their cry for the Ravens any neutral fans in the sparse crowd (admittedly an unlikely presence) could be forgiven for distractedly gazing towards the rafters for evidence of winged portents of impending disaster.
They need not have looked that way for out on the pitch the Blue & Blacks were serving up a disaster of their own making. Overwhelming set-piece possession, provided by a pack that demolished their opponents in the scrum for the first hour and regular piracy of opposition throw-ins at the lineouts, produced little from a pedestrian back division.
Honourable mentions behind the scrum must be made for Dafydd Hewitt and especially Jamie Roberts who never failed to break the gain-line on the few occasions the ball reached him. Elsewhere, there was a glaring lack of pace, power or vision - and yet the game should still have been won with something to spare. Even if tries were beyond the capabilities of the backs, there was always the goal kicking to turn the screw on a moderate opposition. A week ago the Blue & Blacks in general and Craig Evans in particular made Maesteg pay fully for their indiscipline. Bridgend, however, were let off lightly as the fly-half, the ultimate goal-kicking enforcer at the Old Parish, metamorphosised into Santa Claus as he failed with three penalty goals and a conversion of the only try by Hewitt.
The longer the game went on and the closer the penalty awards were to the posts, the wider the attempted goal-kicks sailed wide. Realising the radar had been left at home, tactics changed in the 65th minute when another three-point opportunity inside the home 22 was spurned. Instead skipper Gareth Gravell opted for a lineout in the corner - and the resulting maul was turned over. By then the replacement props were on the field and the dye was already cast.
The tries of the first half, when skipper Marvin Thomas crossed for Bridgend and Gareth David converted and then Hewitt replied with an unconverted touchdown for the Blue & Blacks were a distant memory. Now as the final moments approached one more unforced error sealed Cardiff’s fate. A loose pass behind a lineout and into no man’s land was gobbled up by the Bridgend midfield, the pack pile in, and Gareth Williams was driven over under the posts for David to easily convert. Once again, Cardiff had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.