Five tries – at least two of which are candidates for try of the season, a bonus point, and, most importantly of all, a team performance that cancels out the horrible aberration at the start of the season....belated New Year's presents don't come much better than this.
Fourteen points for Newport in injury time merely flattered the visitors as Cardiff's vision and attacking intent thrilled the home crowd. There was a new width in all their play as the Black & Ambers were stretched and turned with impressive ease and the Blue & Blacks put together one of their best performances in recent times. Lee Jarvis passed a century of points for the season and again orchestrated affairs at pivot with aplomb and it was a joy to see the outside backs running onto the ball at speed and looking for space rather than contact.
Yet the opening exchanges had been far from promising. Cardiff conceded four penalties in quick succession and old bete noir Dan Griffiths, who has harvested 78 Premiership points at Cardiff's expense in the past five years, slotted two of them and added an opportunist drop goal from 30 metres. But the Blue & Blacks had momentarily led in the sixth minute when they overpowered Newport's scrum and referee Phil Fear had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. Jarvis had no difficulty in converting but thanks to Griffiths the visitors were still ahead 9-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Then came the opportunism that changed the course and tempo of the game. As the crowd gave an ironic cheer for Cardiff's first penalty of the match a quick tap sent Owen Ruttley skipping along the left flank. Though he was caught, a quick recycling and short and long passes in rapid succession by Gareth Chapman and Rhys Williams gave Ryan Howells vital space on the right touchline. He used it well, shaking off three tacklers for a marvellous try after a 40-metre run. Try of the season candidate number 1.
Cardiff just about deserved their 12-9 interval lead but the fun and games really got underway on the restart. After a couple of near-misses, the third try soon came in the 46th minute when wonderful interpassing by Jarvis, Williams and Howells ended with Jarvis triumphantly crossing near the posts for another converted try.... try of the season candidate number 2.
Four minutes later Jarvis kicked a penalty goal and although that was immediately cancelled out by a similar effort from Griffiths at the other end, the Blue & Blacks remained in charge. In the 62nd minute a long kick out of defence, again by Jarvis, ended with Chris Czekaj being rewarded with a successful block and regathering of the attempted Newport clearance for a simple run in and another seven pointer.
The game was now unrecognisable from the shambles at Rodney Parade last September. Michael Leaman came on as a replacement to be the seventh former Blue & Black on duty for the visitors only for a rush of blood to result in ten minutes in the sin bin. Then one of Cardiff's own replacements, Gareth Davies threw an outrageous dummy, bought by the visitors' defence with an eagerness more in keeping with the January sales, and marked his try with a flamboyant swallow dive under the posts worthy of 5.9 points for technical merit as well as the seven that followed with Jarvis' fourth conversion.
At 36-12 the game was long since over as a contest but to their credit, Newport gained some self-respect with late tries by Michael Poole and Dan McShane, both converted by Tom Riley.
Cardiff, for their part, had stretched their winning run in league and cup to five matches and with every prospect of cementing their top six place – and better - in the Premiership as the season unfolds.