2007/2008 Principality Premiership
Cardiff 24 v 22 Neath
20 April 2008 - Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff

Match Report

Cardiff 24 Neath 22

The Blue & Blacks maintained their Indian sign over high-flying Neath with their fourth consecutive league and cup win over the champions. Cardiff were two scores ahead until deep in injury time and were well-worth their comprehensive victory.

Bizarrely, the visit of the most successful club in the five-year Premiership era attracted Cardiff's lowest home crowd of the season.

A pulsating match deserved better. The lead changed hands throughout the first half before Cardiff led 21-15 at the interval and, crucially, 24-15 as the match went into a long injury time and Neath mounted a late surge. The latter was down to a serious injury to Neath scrum-half Gareth Jones in the 48th minute that required a six minutes' delay and the always unwanted sight of a player being stretchered off and taken to hospital for examination of a serious neck injury.

The incident may or may not have affected the visitors but Cardiff were already going great guns before it happened. They struck early with a Roger Davies try within 90 seconds of the kick-off as Neath spilled ball on halfway and the wing eluded three tacklers for a great try at the posts, converted by Leigh Halfpenny.

But in the twelfth minute Jevon Groves was yellow carded by Nigel Whitehouse and now it was a case of battening down the hatches for ten minutes. They almost survived the one-man disadvantage but a foolish reversed penalty gift-wrapped a five-metre attacking scrum for the visitors and, controversially, the referee awarded a penalty try for 'going up' even as the ball was out and in the hands of the scrum-half. Arwel Thomas, who had already slotted a penalty goal for Groves' indiscretion, now added the extras for a 10-7 lead to the visitors.

It was short-lived as Halfpenny kicked two penalties of his own, the second when flanker James Merriman was carded. With the pace hotting up Gareth King regained Neath's lead with a try after clever handling by Thomas. Back came Cardiff with another Roger Davies special which featured great use of an overlap on the left. To complete a more than satisfactory first half Halfpenny added another penalty goal to stretch the lead.

Cardiff dominated territory in the second half and, with James Down and Chris Stamatakis yet again doing great work at the lineouts the champions were running out of ideas. Halfpenny missed from 35 metres in the 58th minute but was more successful from further out with six minutes of normal time left. Crucially, he also thwarted Matthew Nuthall as he attempted to touch down in the left corner. Four minutes into added time replacement scrum-half Martin Roberts crossed for Neath and Howard Thomas converted – but Cardiff held on for another significant result.

Neath, however, were crowned champions in front of the television cameras though with most of their supporter base 50 miles down the M4.

Official : Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Cardiff Neath