In the end it was a comfortable victory, but Narberth nevertheless made a favourable impression on their first visit to Cardiff Arms Park. As Bleddyn Williams pointed out afterwards, they entered fully into the spirit of the occasion, attempting to play positive rugby and often succeeding. The Blue & Blacks, for their part, relished positive opposition and the result was an enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment for all who were involved.
Three early tries for Cardiff might have suggested the beginnings of a points avalanche but it was never quite that. True, Richard Jones scored the first of his own eventual hat-trick within two minutes of the start. And, yes, Shaun James, shining in his appearance against a former club, added a second shortly afterwards before the again impressive Jamie Roberts burst through for the third with still only 25 minutes on the clock.
But Narberth then made the best possible response. On the half hour they showed a commendable readiness to take on their bigger opponents in the close exchanges and after a succession of short range pick-and-gos veteran lock Emori Katalou crashed over for a well deserved try, easily converted by Nick Jones. Better still, immediately from the restart they moved the ball wide and Jones was again in the thick of the action to finish off a joyous 70-metre move for a try that he again converted -but this time from the very edge of touch.
19-14...very interesting! Amidst dark mutterings about the ghosts of St Peter’s past being highlighted in the match programme, the Blue & Blacks reasserted control. In the last five minutes of the half back-rowers Adam Powell and Gareth Gravell both scored similar tries half way out on the left and Chris Anderson added two more conversions to his successful double at the start. At 33-14 Cardiff were again comfortable, at least on the scoreboard. The Otters were worth every decibel of support they received from their travelling fans as they headed for the half-time break.
In the second period, they mounted several early attacks only to be caught napping when Jamie Roberts powered out of his own 2, found Richard Jones in support, and, when the move momentarily broke down, Gareth Gunter was on hand to claim the unconverted try. Another followed from Richard Jones when he gobbled up spilled ball to score near the corner and then the perennially popular Chris Stamatakis squeezed over at the other corner for the eighth try.
When Elgan and Richard Jones and Mike Leaman then added three more tries, all converted by replacement Craig Evans, in a six-minute burst, there was more than a suspicion that the Otters had finally been grounded. To their credit, they were far from finished and had several close calls for a third try of their own before the excellent Kelvin Deaker called full time. A word, then, for the New Zealand referee. For only the second time in ten home matches this season a game was completed without a yellow card being brandished. Three cheers for two positive teams - and exemplary man management. Perhaps it was just the ‘magic of the cup’…..or was it something else?