2009/2010 Principality Premiership
Neath 27 v 39 Cardiff
25 October 2009 - The Gnoll, Neath

Match Report

Neath 27 Cardiff 39

Oops! The Indian sign over Neath is alive and well. The Blue & Blacks latest smash and grab win at the Gnoll will have the men in white coats rushing to the old ground to administer to the shell-shocked supporters of the self-styled Welsh All Blacks.

Cardiff's eighth consecutive victory over the one-time pace setters and standard bearers of Premiership rugby was built on a typically never-say-die attitude in the first half and a clinical finishing repertoire after the break. If there were times in the early stages when Rhys Shellard's team looked as if they were hanging on to avoid a rout, then Neath's steamroller, as so often in the last three years, ground to a halt as quickly as their playmaker Arwel Thomas' bubble burst.

The former Wales fly-half, one of eight internationals equally divided between the two starting line-ups, had threatened to run the show in the first half-hour but the longer the game went on the more he was shackled and harried by Cardiff's back row and midfield defence.

And as at the Arms Park last month, once Neath's Plan A had hit the buffers, their Plan B was non-existent. Cardiff's fortunes worked in inverse proportion: a shaky start, relieved by a converted try against the run of play; a deadly strike on the brink of half-time; and an increasingly dominant second half headlined by three further tries in nine minutes and a precious bonus point win.

Gareth Davies missed two attempted penalty goals from 45 and 38 metres inside the first eight minutes before Thomas edged the hosts ahead with a 25-metre effort of his own. Nathan Brew had already been binned for what appeared to be a trip (and therefore a light punishment) and Cardiff took full advantage as the back three combined to run back a missed clearance kick, Chris Czekaj embarrassed the wide defence, and Owen Williams was on hand to complete the move for Davies to convert.

On 20 minutes Thomas gave everyone a glimpse of all our yesterdays as he cut through off second phase possession for a glorious try at the posts that he easily converted. Davies levelled the scores at 10-all with a 30-metre penalty goal but Neath were still threatening to cut loose. It was no surprise when Thomas again called the shots from halfway, linking with Gareth King and Brew before Kevin Farrelll raced over for another seven pointer.

At this stage Cardiff were hanging on and could have no complaints if they went into the break trailing by one score. But bang on the interval they harried Neath into a mistake in their own 22 and the ever-alert Tom Slater tapped the penalty and darted over. Lo and behold Davies' extras from wide out levelled matters again.

The second half was of a completely different hue. Now it was Blue & Blacks everywhere. Davies cut the defence, Rhys Shellard carried the move on and finally Dan Godfrey powered over on the right. The only bad news was that the fly-half was injured in the move; the good news was that old campaigner Chris Anderson came off the bench to pop over the tricky conversion. Thomas' final contribution was a 38-metre penalty before he was replaced by Gareth McCarthy. By then Cardiff had struck twice in three minutes. Darren Morris had almost scored but was called back for a foot in touch, yet from the resulting lineout Neath's throw-in was turned over on the left and a succession of drives by the pack ended with another great forwards' try for Matthew Veater.

The pain wasn't over for the home side as from their restart Godfrey again carried the ball upfield, Dafydd James made more hard yards and the looping Craig Morgan was triumphantly on hand to skip around th remnants of the defence and score at the posts. Anderson converted.

In the 71st minute Neath gave themselves a lifeline, however tenuous, when McCarthy converted a Kristian Phillips try that he had made with an improvised cross-kick. But Neath were chasing the game without any shape or platform. The inevitable happened in the seventh minute of added time as they spilled the ball in their own 22, conceded a penalty, and Anderson provided the final touch with his easy penalty goal.

The trick-cyclists were already moving in.

Official : Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Neath Cardiff