The unpleasantness that has gone hand in hand with too many Cardiff v Bridgend matches in recent seasons surfaced again at the Arms Park.
There was so many off the ball incidents that all three officials needed eyes in the back of their heads to sort out what was going on – and that certainly didn't happen. As it was, four yellow cards, two to either side, were waved inside the first half-hour and no one could have complained if at least two of them had been red.
In the end, Cardiff were rewarded for a rearguard action in the first half, when they somehow got to the changing room trailing only by four points on the scoreboard and at least had all their limbs and sundry body parts intact. The second period was a totally different story as they dominated territory and possession and in the 79th minute replacement fly-half Craig Evans applied the appropriate coup de grace with a match-winning drop goal from 40 metres that bounced over off the cross bar.
Unfortunately, it was at a cost because influential prop Scott Roberts had been taken off in the 50th minute with severely damaged ribs that needed hospital treatment.
Bridgend might well be kicking themselves after starting so brightly and totally losing their way. Their early appetite for playing at pace and with width petered out as their priorities turned to physical confrontation that did no one credit. They had led 10-3 after 21 minutes thanks to an opportunist try by Ioan Cunningham and a conversion and penalty goal from Gareth David. At that point the nonsense started and their scoring dried up. Ospreys' prop Cai Griffiths was sin-binned in the 26th minute and when fellow prop Lee Davies followed him to the sidelines four minutes later we had the unpalatable reality of a non-contested scrum.
The hyperactive Davies had been deeply involved in the mass brawl that also resulted in Cardiff's Darren Ryan and Scott Roberts joining him on the long walk off the pitch. Bridgend came off worse from the incident, though, as the referee penalised them and Gareth Davies slotted his second goal to reduce the arrears to 10-6. The fly-half missed two more in the closing moments of the half but by then the tide was already turning.
Some order was restored for most of the second half. A third Davies' penalty in the 44th minute put Cardiff within striking range. Sensing that sooner or later the visitors' indiscretions would result in more goal-kicking opportunities, Craig Evans was sent on as a replacement. Ironically he missed with an attempt from wide out on the right touchline but the Blue & Blacks' remained true to an obvious game plan.
From a lineout on the right the ever-willing Darren Ryan smashed down the inside centre channel and over the gain line and from the ruck a long pass back to the fly-half allowed Evans to strike the winning drop goal. Moments before there had been yet another flare-up and, incredibly, the referee's solution was another chat with both captains. The time for talking had long since passed - and Craig Evans was about to have the last word.