It was game of numbers at the Arms Park as the Blue & Blacks came from behind to snatch victory. The most important was the 26-21 final scoreline but equally impressive in its own way was the figure 17 – the number of changes, including positional, in the Wanderers' named 22 ahead of the game. Never have late fitness tests had such a devastating effect...
For the visitors, though, their restructrured squad almost worked. They led 6-0 after nine minutes thanks to a couple of Scott Sneddon penalty goals and although they fell behind by the interval they regained the lead three times in a second half that was far more eventful than the first turgid 40 minutes.
The Wanderers might also claim that they outscored their opponents by two tries to one but they were also more heavily penalised for their indiscretions – 'winning' the yellow card count 3-nil – and finally having to doff their caps to the unforgiving boot of Lee Jarvis.
The player-coach came off the bench for the final half-hour, took over the goal-kicking duties from Gareth Davies, and effectively won the game in the final two minutes. Davies had succeeeded with two kicks of his own in the first half, but that was only a 50 per cent return for his efforts as he missed with another from 38 metres and also the wide-angled conversion of Damian Welch's try. The half-time lead of 11-6 flattered Cardiff after their notably slow start and the early stages of the second were equally inauspicious. Davies missed with another attempted penalty before, in the 47th minute, Ross Johnston caught them asleep as the front of a lineout as he took a quick throw and return from the five-metre mark and galloped 22 metres for a try in the corner, converted by Sneddon.
At 13-11 the Wanderers were looking comfortable but then they almost imploded as first flanker Ben White and then wing Steve Cullen were sin-binned within three minutes of each other. From the second of the two cards Davies restored Cardiff's lead with a point-blank penalty goal. Remarkably, though, for the next five minutes the Blue & Blacks could hardly get their hands on the ball to exploit their two-man advantage. Further embarrassment was heaped on them as the Wanderers then reached the home 22 and Sneddon promptly dropped a goal.
Enter stage right Jarvis. Immediately after Davies had missed with another penalty attempted from the edge of touch another chance came along as the Wanderers became increasingly ill-disciplined and Jarvis popped the kick over from 30 metres. Within 90 seconds he was at it again, this time downwind from all of 52 metres.
At 20-16 Cardiff now looked in control but, yet again, they were pinned back near their line and from a close range lineout the Wanderers worked the ball back to the blindside for number 8 Mike Grimes to flop over and regain the lead.
Cardiff didn't panic. The clock had ticked around to 79 minutes before Jarvis dropped a goal and when, in injury time, Wanderers skipper Nick Kelly earned his side's third yellow card Jarvis needed no second invitation to blast over another penalty from 45 metres with the last kick of the match.