A 78th minute converted try by replacement prop Richard Cornock rescued a game that an unconvincing Cardiff side struggled to control from start to finish. Until that late comeback, the most important statistics were Ebbw Vale 'marks' 10, Cardiff 'knock-ons' countless. That says everything about 80 minutes of turgid rugby that was a total rebuttal of all the progress the squad has made in the last three months and a poor advert for the Premiership in general.
There were numerous unforced errors, a plethora of turn-overs on both sides and, as the number of marked catches would indicate, a catalogue of pointless and ill-executed tactical kicking.
One of the only bright features was the excellent lineout poaching of Matthew Veater in his first full game since December, plus, inevitably another all-action display by Rhys Shellard.
Ebbw Vale fielded Dragons and former Cardiff and Wales flanker Jamie Ringer in the number 7 shirt but he was outshone by Shellard.
There was less to celebrate behind the scrum thanks, mainly, to the aimless kicking out of hand and the game never gathered a tempo worth watching. One remarkable aspect was that the Vale 'outscored' their opponents 14-4 in their favour with the penalties awarded including an almost unbelievable nine in the second half when Cardiff were not awarded one! To overcome that deficit was, at least, something to take away from an unmemorable afternoon.
Lee Jarvis opened the scoring with a 30-metre drop goal in the 15th minute, a kick to nothing as a rare penalty advantage was being played. The Steelmen hit back immediately as their restart was spilled in the visitors' 22 (it was that sort of day) and from the scrum replacement hooker Richard Wilkes powered over at the posts for Aaron Bramwell to convert.
Ringer was yellow carded in the 20th minute for back chat but it was not until ten minutes later that Cardiff manufactured the best move of the game. Shellard burst off the back of a lineout on the left and the ball was recycled to the right where Jarvis' long pass enabled Craig Morgan to put Ryan Howells over on the overlap.
With the last kick of the half Bramwell put his side ahead 10-8 with a fine 35-metre penalty goal. But in the third quarter he missed two further attempts from 45 and 40 metres before succeeding with his third shot from near the right touchline. With only 12 minutes left on the clock Cardiff were up against it but no sooner had Richard Cornock come off the replacements' bench than he was on hand to finish off a fine move in which Ryan Howells and Darren Ryan made the hard yards. Gareth Davies' match-winning conversion in front of the posts was a formality – which is more than can be said for the method by which another invaluable away victory was achieved.