2007/2008 Principality Premiership
Cardiff 27 v 26 Pontypridd
06 May 2008 - Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff

Match Report

Cardiff 27 Pontypridd 26

Few Blue & Black watchers would argue with Justin Burnell's conclusion that the season has been one of genuine progress and the last piece of the jigsaw was duly in place after another 80-minute thriller at the Arms Park.

Second-place in the Premiership and a first double over Pontypridd to go alongside the one already posted against champions Neath was, by any standards, progress with a capital 'P'.

Burnell and his back room staff have turned Cardiff's fortunes around remarkably over the last two years. Where there was once talk of avoiding relegation, there is now expectation of chasing trophies and titles whilst still continuing with positive player development.

This match typified a new inner steel in the squad. Burnell's programme notes referred to the last lap capitulation at Stradey Park 12 months ago. With the squad down to few selection options after a spate of injuries and recent suspensions, another going over from a fired up Ponty might well have been on the cards.

But to everyone's credit the Blue & Blacks turned on an exceptional performance. They barely touched the ball for the first twenty minutes but heroic defence shone through. The visitors failed to register any points, even when Cardif were reduced to 14 men after Richie Pugh's sin-binning.

Then, when Ponty lost Wayne O'Connor and skipper Duane Goodfield to the bin inside five minutes, Cardiff hit them with a classic one-two. Leigh Halfpenny kicked a penalty goal and converted a try by Owen Ruttley after a tap penalty.

The sub-plot of the night was the contribution of the squad's old guard. There has been no shortage of new faces and recruits over the last two years but now it was the long serving Blue & Blacks who were making a telling statement. If Ruttley's all-action display typified this, then it was also the case that there was no more effective ball-carrier on the park than Ryan Price. The evening had started with Darren Fenton deservedly leading out the side on his one-hundredth appearance and it ended with Adam Powell getting stronger and stronger as the game went on.

Leading 10-0 at the interval, Cardiff immediately built on it after the restart as Roger Davies counter-attacked from halfway, regathered his own chip ahead and surged under the posts for Halfpenny to convert. 17-0!

Chris Dicomidis and Ruttley then cancelled each other out with converted tries but Ponty cut the deficit to one score through further touchdowns from Sam Hobbs and the outstanding Tom Riley. By now Cardiff had Pugh playing on the wing and when Gavin Lucas was red carded in the 73rd minute it really did look as if Ponty might overhaul them at the last gasp.

Now came another significant phase as the Blue & Blacks ran down the clock with a series of set-pieces deep in the visitors' half. To cap it all, replacement scrum-half Luke Evans had the confidence to play on a knock-on advantage and blasted over an audacious drop goal from 30 metres.

Cardiff were two scores ahead and Lee Evans' converted try deep in injury time was too late to rob them of runners-up spot in the league,though it did confirm Pontypridd in third place. And Cardiff have beaten both champions Neath and third-placed Pontypridd home and away....