The Blue & Blacks sank almost without trace at Stradey Park, paying the full price for a naïve performance against a lively Llanelli lineup. The team was not without energy or effort but what it lacked in all departments was a sense of direction.
Once again the scrummaging was nothing to shout about, the lineout was a solitary shining light for the first half at least, and there was a paucity of ideas and cutting edge behind the scrum. It was a bad blow to lose Damian Welch with a groin injury after barely half an hour's play, for he was the team's most effective ball-carrier. When he left Chris Stamatakis assumed that mantle but neither of them made much headway when there was a lack of support. Chris Jones, a late replacement for the incapacitated Dan McShane, did several good things but the pack as a whole were outgunned in the loose.
Significantly, both half-backs were replaced at half-time but without any noticeable improvement in the back play. The ball rarely reached the dangerous Leigh Halfpenny while Ryan Howells on the opposite wing too often spilled or lost the ball when in possession.
There was the worst possible start when turnover ball deep inside Llanelli's ball was used with clinical efficiency. Fly-half Dan Evans counter-attacked at pace and wing Alec Jenkins finished off a 70-metre move.
Two former Cardiff back-rowers, Nathan Thomas and Johnathan Edwards, were also on the score sheet with tries in either half. Thomas crossed after a clever switch in which Dan Evans was again prominent and late in the first half Cardiff's soporific fringe defence could only stand and watch when scrum-half Liam Davies slipped over on the blind-side of a ruck.
Cardiff had criminally failed to use the strong wind at their backs in the first 40 minutes and went in trailing 6-17. Craig Evans' two successful penalties were from point-blank range but he had also sent two others from 40 metres high, wide and not particularly handsome.
Little went right in the second period, either. Dan Evans kicked two penalty goals, the first after Stamatakis was sin-binned, to stretch the lead. Most embarrassing of all was that after Stamo had returned and the opposition were reduced to 14 men when wing Jenkins saw yellow, Llanelli still managed to score 14 points. Edwards claimed the first of these scores, quickly followed by a try from replacement Craig Hawkins and Evans had no problem in adding the extras.
At that stage it was 37-6 with a dozen minutes still to play and Llanelli seemed set to surpass last May's 37-10 winning margin.
Thankfully, Cardiff kept going to the end and Scott Roberts plopped over from a short range lineout for Gareth Davies to convert. Even so, 37-13 was an unacceptable final score – and, frankly, it could easily have been worse.