Pontypridd
2007/2008 Principality Premiership
Pontypridd 10 v 23 Cardiff
29 December 2007 - Sardis Road, Pontypridd
Cardiff

Match Report

Pontypridd 10 Cardiff 23

The great journey continues. Hot on the heels of a first ever Premiership win over Newport, another victory at the Gnoll, and a top three place in the table comes another first in five attempts. The satisfying fact about the breakthrough at Sardis Road was not that Cardiff just won, but that the score in no way flattered them.

The Blue & Blacks played all the rugby and by the middle of the second half had silenced the myopic home 'referees' in the grandstand and the chanting fans (they could hardly be described as choral legions) on the terrace. It was as comprehensive as that.

Cardiff attacked from the outset, led after three minutes with the first of Leigh Halfpenny's six penalty goals, were pulled back by a Neil Burnett reply two minutes later, and when Trystan Lazarus scrambled a Ponty try in the twelfth minute it seemed momentarily as if the home side's prospects had indeed rising from the dead.

But this Cardiff 2007 Model (and set to be even better in 2008) rarely throws in the towel. Two more Halfpenny goals from close range pulled the deficit back to 9-10 and then in the 24th minute their attacking ambitions paid dividends.

Another sweeping attack was stopped on the left but the ball went right again where Gareth Davies chipped in a diagonal punt that was snatched out of the air by Ryan Howells for a brilliant try. Halfpenny, this time, couldn't convert but the Blue & Blacks remained on top, by now taking regular helpings of Ponty lineouts (eight by the end of the game) and forcing opposition infringements. When the home side were whistled up for the ninth time inside the first half-hour referee Hugh Watkins had little option other than to bin scrum-half Andrew Jenkins. The one-man advantage was permanently reversed in the fourth minute of the second half when Damian Welch was red-carded for uncharacteristically throwing a punch. There were dark post-match mutterings by an otherwise discreet team management of an alleged eye-gouging by a Ponty forward, an incident apparently confirmed by television pictures and analysis. There might yet be repercussions.

Now the real story of the evening unfolded. A seven-man pack dominating their opponents at the lineouts, holding them in the scrum (where Adam Powell performed miracles of back-row tidying up), and finishing on top in the contact areas. Behind the scrum it was no contest as Ponty huffed and puffed and found blind alleys where they seemingly didn't exist. Meanwhile Cardiff sent on Craig Evans at fly-half to give them a text-book lesson in game management.

The thirtieth minute loss of Roger Davies with mild concussion failed to disrupt Cardiff's organisation. Halfpenny went to full-back and Gareth Chapman to the wing and the back three continued to set off alarm bells as they ran back Ponty's miskicks. Inevitably the second-half in the clinging mud was more of a dogfight but the Blue & Blacks answered every question posed of them. Halfpenny slotted two more goals and Cardiff were home and dry with most of the home fans already having taken their leave.

Official : Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Pontypridd Cardiff
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