Old habits die hard but the Blue and Blacks successfully removed another monkey from their backs with a first away win at Bridgend in five Premiership visits. Mind you, some things never change: witness the Brewery Field’s resident dinosaur with his chanting of ‘Cheque Book Charlies’ as the visitors took the lead. The mind boggles at what taunts await Neath on their next visit there. Send for Gordon Gecco.
There were relatively few riches out on a surprisingly sticky pitch, though Cardiff have much to be pleased with. They remain unbeaten after their five opening fixtures - the only one of the 14 Premiership clubs - and four of them away from home. They are level on 19 points with Neath at the top of the table. And they look to have unearthed another worthwhile youngster in Nathan Rees.
The outside centre from Ystrad Rhondda is still only 18 but he came through his senior debut with flying colours, showing pace, an eye for a gap, and well-timed passing, capping his performance with an excellent try at the end of the first half. Cardiff ended up outscoring the Ravens by three tries to nil, the hosts only points coming from five penalty goals from skipper Gareth David.
Cardiff started strongly but Bridgend were going strong at the end, their only consolation being a bonus point but one that still leaves them propping up the rest of the table. That will be of little concern to the Blue and Blacks who have suffered their fair share of disappointments at the Brewery Field over the years. This time they began as if they meant business. They fielded their selected team but Bridgend sprung two late changes at lock with the inclusion of Osprey Mike Powell and coach Chris Stephens. Ironically, the lineouts proved to be Cardiff’s most reliable source of possession, with James Down frustrating opposition throw-ins and Gavin Lucas and Damian Welch rock solid on their own ball. Behind them, Adam Whitney was again in outstanding form on the flank.
An early sustained attack forced the Bridgend backs to drift offside and Gareth Davies had no difficulty with a 38-metre penalty. Though David blasted over an impressive penalty from 48 metres in reply, the Blue and Blacks remained true to their attacking intent. Gareth Davies manufactured a clever chip ahead and regathered to send Down galloping 30 metres to the line for the opening try. Another David goal from over 40 metres kept his side in touch before Davies was again in the thick of the action and the ball was worked to Rees near the left touchline and he showed great determination to reach the corner for the second try.
Two more David penalties early in the second half reduced Cardiff’s lead to 13-12 but Whitney’s 61st minute try, the result of good link work by Luke Evans and Ryan Howells, gave the visitors some breathing space. Back came Bridgend again with David’s fifth penalty goal in the 64th minute and, when Richard Cornock was sin binned with 10 minutes to go, it was the signal for all-out attack by them. But Cardiff held on for the precious first Premiership win on their bogey ground. A case not so much of reaching for a cheque book as raising an honest glass in celebration....