This is becoming a habit but a very enjoyable one. Seven wins in a row against Neath and all of them due to a magnificent team ethos.
Whoever wrote the script for this one will be up for an Oscar for best original screenplay.Briefly, the plot reads something like this: Cardiff lead 13-3 at the interval, largely thanks to former club captain and now Neath's strongman Gareth Gravell being sin-binned; Neath camp in Cardiff's 22 for long periods in the second half and steamroller back into a 17-13 advantage; Cardiff nose ahead by two points with ten minutes left; Arwel Thomas slots a penalty goal in the 82nd minute to seemingly win the game for the visitors; back to the other end and Gareth Davies clinically drops a goal to win the game in the fourth minute of added time.
Pretty damn good.The sub-plot was just as fascinating.
In increasingly difficult conditions as the driving rain swept in off the river end, both sides struggled throughout an unremarkable first 40 minutes. Then in injury time as the interval loomed Gravell was carded for killing the ball inside Cardiff's half.
From the next lineout on halfway Gareth Davies – now firmly established as the most improved and influential player of the season so far – took full advantage of the missing backrow marker to slice through the midfield and find Darren Ryan at his elbow for the try at the posts. Davies' conversion, on top of his two earlier penalty goals against one from Thomas, gave his side that 10-point lead at the break.So to the second half and the predictable response by Neath with the elements in their favour. But for all their overwhelming territorial advantage and their penalty try against a seven-man scrum and another by prop Anthony Lott, it was a one-dimensional effort, the bludgeon rather than the rapier.
A courageous Cardiff defence mostly kept them at bay, despite the sin-binning of Rhys James. Their reward came in the final quarter. Davies kicked one penalty goal from a wide angle and then in the 70th minute succeeded with a phenomenal effort from the 10 metre line and only five metres in from touch. 19-17 to Cardiff – but then a point behind again as Thomas struck with his own much simpler effort.
Then the final drama as the pack drove into Neath's 22, Davies picked his position behind the ruck, and under the noses and flailing arms of three charging defenders coolly dropped the killer goal.A good comeback result after the hiccup against Cross Keys.
And as for that winning streak of seven? No big deal.... next time Neath beat Cardiff they'll be the 'giant-killers'.