The Blue & Blacks put a smile back on the face of rugby at the Arms Park with a pulsating second half performance against Swansea at St Helen’s. Gareth Gravell’s side looked down and almost out of the Konica Minolta Cup at half-time, trailing 6-8 having wasted the advantage of a strong wind at their backs, temporarily reduced to 14 men after the sin-binning of Adam Powell, and generally lethargic and off the pace throughout the first 40 minutes. Two penalty goals from Craig Evans and a couple of near-misses for tries were a poor return for the first period but was an accurate reflection on their performance. The writing seemed on the ball for the second half, with elusive Swansea fly-half Damien Karunua already having an armchair ride behind a rampaging pack in which open-side flanker Ben Lewis was causing mayhem around the fringes of rucks and mauls.
Whatever words of wisdom were imparted by Justin Burnell and his coaching staff during the interval - and we can be fairly sure that they were of the direct rather than diplomatic variety - worked a treat after the restart. After an initial surge by the Whites when they wasted two glorious opportunities to add to Lewis’ first half touchdown and full-back Ricky Williams’ penalty goal, the game was turned on its head in the 55th minute. Once again it was Jamie Roberts who was in the thick of the action, taking on the home defence on the outside to surge 40 metres for a fine try half way out on the right. It signalled the start of a 19-point burst in barely seven minutes. The influential full-back was again the key figure as he raced along the left touchline and, although halted near the corner flag, the ball was recycled back into midfield and Ross Johnston was perfectly positioned to gallop over, around and behind the posts for the second try.
Evans had no difficulty in converting that one before, three minutes later, succeeding with a far more unlikely conversion from the edge of touch and into a swirling wind. It was no more than Cardiff’s third try deserved as Nick Gill finished off another sweeping attack started from turnover ball on half-way and brilliantly exploited by Darren Allinson and carried on by Adam Powell before finding the wing in support out wide.
Suddenly Cardiff were 25-8 ahead and the Whites were visibly running out of steam. With the travelling support in full voice on the terraces, the Blue & Blacks went from strength to strength. The unfavourable elements proved no obstacle as they played most of the remaining 20 minutes in Swansea territory. Yet more turnover ball was manna from heaven for Allinson as this time he chipped, regathered from under the noses of the defence, and linked with the support for Elgan Jones to touch down for another converted try.
With their second cup semi-final in as many years in sight, the Blue & Blacks kept their foot firmly on the accelerator to the very end and, right on time, produced text-book possession from the lineout, where James Down was dominating all around him, for Craig Evans to canter over for the final try which, with his conversion, took his personal points tally to 19 for the match and 228 for the season.