Cardiff
2008/2009 Principality Premiership
Cardiff 36 v 9 Llanelli
25 April 2009 - Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Llanelli

Match Report

Cardiff 36 Llanelli 9

The wheel has turned full circle. Six years ago Cardiff's first ever Premiership fixture of the semi-professional era was against Llanelli. They won 36-13 - and that remained the best winning margin until now. The years in between have often been disappointing, but in the last three the hard work and investment in young talent has paid off; from relegation candidature to mid-table mediocrity and, last year, the runners' up spot... the graph has eventually taken an upward turn. All the time, though, the bottom line was player development: Roberts, James, Halfpenny are just three examples.

And now, or at least sometime within the next seven to 14 days, a Premiership title will be the deserved team and club bonus.

This record victory over Llanelli, a club who themselves for most of this campaign have set the Premiership pace, epitomised all that the current Blue & Blacks have achieved - heroic defence of Maginot Line proportions married with clinical attacking ambition. The key factor in the latter is the full 80 minutes' performance. A week ago against Glamorgan Wanderers the team gained the vital fourth and bonus point try in injury time. Against Llanelli, after being under the cosh and defending a narrow lead for most of the second half, they struck with tries number three, four and five between the 74th and 80th minutes. 

It was stirring stuff, not least for a home crowd that has at last found its voice. The standing ovation at the end was nothing less than Rhys Shellard's side deserved. For too long during the early evening, the result was balanced on a knife edge. Llanelli scored first through a Dan Newton penalty goal before, in the eleventh minute, a scything break from the blindside wing by Ryan Howells opened up the midfield and Craig Morgan ran in for his 94th try for Cardiff and the Blues. Gareth Davies' conversion meant that Ceirion Thomas' second penalty goal for the visitors could not overhaul the home lead. Another Davies penalty goal extended that to 10-6 at the break.

The second half was a curious affair. Damian Welch scored a cracking try after a cheeky chip and gather by Davies had been recycled to the openside where, not for the first time this season, the flanker's startling pace left the defence flatfooted.

But Llanelli dominated territory and it was a relief when their only reward was another Thomas penalty goal. They excelled at phase play with skipper and hooker Craig Hawkins an inspirational figure. Cardiff's defence, however,  held firm.

With barely five minutes left on the clock, most of the home crowd would have settled for a narrow, four Premiership points' result.Then the 80-minute factor kicked (or, rather, ran) in.

On 74 minutes, classic quick lineout possession on their own 10-metre line sent Richard Jones charging through the midfield. On his elbow, as ever, was Rhys Shellard and on and on he went for a try under the posts. Two minutes later again it was Jones who burst through off a short pass and, this time, Gareth Chapman finished off.

With the win and the bonus point in the bag the Blue & Blacks could have been forgiven if they had eased off. Not a bit of it. Fittingly it was Richard Jones who claimed the fifth and final try in the 80th minute as Chapman returned the compliment with his own break and selfless pass. That Gareth Davies converted all three late strikes merely underlined the deadly nature of the Blue & Blacks' attack force.

Three games to play and five Premiership points needed for the title...but let's not count our chickens. Yet.

Official : Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Cardiff Llanelli
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