Out of the ashes of fallen props, new stars are born. Three days after sampling the smell of the greasepaint and the glamour of the spotlights, try-scoring prop Daniel Preece came off the bench for the second time and stole the show.
Last Saturday, barely nine minutes had elapsed before he joined the action in place of the fallen Kristian Gay and almost immediately trundled over for his second try in as many games for the Blue & Blacks. Obviously finding the name on the scoresheet to his liking he trumped even that against Ebbw Vale. This time he didn't rush it, waiting for all of 20 minutes before joining the fray though in equally unfortunate circumstances.
Starting loose-head Ian George did just that: lost his head, or at least its direction as it nodded, twitched, tilted in the direction of his opposite number after what appeared to be an unscripted exchange of verbals. Off went George, without ceremony; with him, with regret, went Jamie Ringer to create the pack vacancy to be filled so notably by Preece.One try against Pontypool, one try against Ayr ... and now two in one game against the Steelmen.
In what became a virtuoso display the longer the game went on, the ball seemed to follow him wherever he went: twice down near his own corner flag as he collected high kicks with the aplomb of a seasoned full-back; and twice in the final ten minutes – still going strong – as first he deftly took Rhys Shellard's scoring pass on the left and then with the final play of the game and a bonus point at stake he popped up outside Gareth Davies on the right and slipped the final tackle for the defining try.
The piano players had set up the piano shifter on both occasions and the home crowd loved it.What his opponents thought is probably unrepeatable. With a one man advantage for over an hour they wasted overwhelming territorial domination in the first half, kicking the ball away as if it was the proverbial hot potato. Reaching the interval at 'nil' was not very clever; still pointless after another 40 minutes bordered on the hapless.
Beforehand, they were obviously lacking key players through injuries. Under new head coach Rowland Phillips their cunning plan seemed to go no further than that well-established Neath wheeze of not announcing a starting XV until the last moment. Plus ca change.
In the end it was all irrelevant. Once the Blue & Blacks realised the limitations of the opposition they played heads-up rugby and it was only a matter of time before their pace and width would pay dividends. Not that their first half display had been very convincing. Five minutes before George saw red a rare visit to Vale's 22 brought a classic fly-half's try for Gareth Davies, dummying his way to the posts and converting with a formality.
If there was a feeling that the 7-0 interval lead would be overtaken, that judgement was revised immediately on the resumption as Davies kicked two penalty goals within three minutes: 13-0.Now it was Cardiff's turn to dominate territory. Despite the introduction of talisman number 8 Rhys Williams off the bench, Vale lost all direction and structure.
Fourteen man Cardiff, meanwhile, were going in the opposite direction.Shellard provided the final pass for Craig Morgan's 104th try for the club in the 51st minute but as the clock ticked around to the final ten minutes two further touchdowns for the bonus point seemed a forlorn hope.
Then young Preece provided the old one-two.Cometh the hour, cometh the prop. A new star was born.