Let's get one unpalatable statistic out of the way first of all. The last time the Blue & Blacks were 'zero-ed', 'nil-ed', whatever we choose to call it, was at Newport in March 2004 – nearly six years and all of 163 Premiership matches ago. Thanks largely to the groundwork put in by Messrs Burnell, Wilson and Baber, and built on by the charismatic contribution of Phil Davies last season, the good days have outnumbered the bad since that debacle at Rodney Parade. But this was not so much a debacle as a denouncement of all that has gone before.
If the suspicion that the game was won and lost in the selection room is to be discounted then there is still the temptation to speculate whether sufficient attention was given to the indisputable fact that this was a local derby, a city clash moreover where the hidden agendas have been developing for years. The respective coaching teams, largely comprised of colleagues within the Blues' academy from Monday to Friday, have been playing cat and mouse with each other's team announcements, often to a farcical degree, home and away twice a season.
That still doesn't explain how the Blue & Blacks, having successfully 'got away' by pairing a couple of number 12s in midfield in recent matches, now fielded two number 13s against an opposition where Dafydd Hewitt, amongst others, posed a significant gainline threat. Factor in the usual smattering of other ex-Blue & Blacks never lacking in motivation against their former club and the pre-match omens were clearly indicating the sternest of tests even for a Cardiff squad flushed by the success of back-to-back wins over Pontypridd and a groundbreaking result in Llanelli.
Cardiff started well enough – for all of five minutes – but the alarm bells should have been ringing when the Wanderers' first incursion into the home 22 resulted in a close-range attacking scrum and a try from a move straight off the training ground.With absurd ease, the back row linked with scrum-half Trelawny on the blind-side, a 'dummy' that was bought as if on irresistible offer in the Boxing Day sales, and an unchallenged touchdown for the number 9. The tricky conversion proved no problem for fly-half Scott Sneddon who was to emerge as a major figure in the game.
Sneddon had flirted with a Blue & Blacks' career two pre-seasons ago; now he is a Blues' development officer and, for the Wanderers, an impressive pivot.
And elsewhere on the pitch the likes of Nathan Trevett and Gareth Knight were already making significant contributions as the Wanderers pack as a whole were playing with far more urgency than their counterparts. Their increasing pressure deep in Cardiff territory again left its mark in the 20th minute when a dangerous charge towards the posts by hefty centre Simon Rosser was only halted by a swinging arm, albeit instinctive rather than premeditated, from Jamie Ringer. The almost inevitable fracas that ensued could only have one result: a yellow card for Ringer – for the third time in his three matches as captain this campaign – and also for Trelawny after his hapless retaliation.
Embarrassment was heaped upon embarrassment six minutes later when a promising back line attack – at last – on the visitors' 22 collapsed as Lee Jarvis' intended pass to the overlap on his left was intercepted by Knight. The former Cardiff under-21 lock, now 27 and all 16 st-plus of him, had the best part of 70 metres of open space between him and glory at the distant Cardiff goal-line. At such moments of suspended time all self-respecting tight forwards are torn between untold heroics and the inbred search to left and right for friendly faces and support players; with every stride the goal-line seems five metres further away rather than closer. But not Knight. Away he went, his legs pumping, his brain probably frazzled – and that line actually getting closer and closer. Cardiff's defence, meanwhile, had eventually decided to give chase, but far too late and to no avail as the galloping lock realised his magical moment of fantasy. Sneddon's conversion made it 14-0 and by half-time his penalty goal had increased the lead by another three points.
Tradition – or is it cliché? - has it that half-time 'talks' revitalise and re-focus underperforming teams who duly come out all guns blazing on the resumption. All the evidence on this occasion suggests that the Blue & Blacks, rather than spending their ten minutes' break dodging flying teacups and enduring an ear-bashing and long overdue call to arms, had been considering the meaning of life over a mince pie and dry sherry. Whatever, the restart, now the responsibility of replacement fly-half Gareth Davies (ditto long overdue), didn't go the required ten metres only for the noticeably confident Wanderers' pack to still gobble it up, recycle it to Trelawny, whose overlong box kick was dropped and then 'killed' on the floor, by one-third of Cardiff's increasingly flaky back three. From far out on the left Sneddon's penalty goal extended the Wanderers' points margin to a gut-wrenching 20.
What followed was little more than 39 minutes of huffing and puffing, hustle and bustle, turnovers everywhere, skill levels plummeting, before, in the closing stages, the indignity of territorial domination by the visitors underlined by cool-headed Sneddon twice dropping back into the pocket and popping over a couple of drop goals.
26-nil..... and not even a suggestion of a Cardiff score throughout the 80 long minutes.
Cardiff v Glamorgan Wanderers (1 January 1927 to 26 December 2009)
Matches played: 42
Cardiff wins: 36
Matches drawn: 2
Wanderers wins: 4...
1 September 1982 (Arms Park) Cardiff 9 Wanderers 15
11 October 1991 (Arms Park) Cardiff 6 Wanderers 16
20 October 2007 (Arms Park) Cardiff 12 Wanderers 18
26 December 2009 (Arms Park) Cardiff 0 Wanderers 26