2009/2010 Principality Premiership
Cardiff 30 v 5 Pontypool
05 February 2010 - Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff

Match Report

Cardiff 30 Pontypool 5

Sanity returns. After a month or more seemingly scripted by Lewis Carroll – Wanderers run up a bagful of points without reply, Bedlinog almost become dead ringers for St Peter's, Llandovery in January taking a leaf out of Cardiff's Boxing Day surrender – it was back to business as usual at the Arms Park.

But Alice in Wonderland this was not. More the bread and butter of Premiership rugby with Pontypool doggedly determined to, somehow, manufacture a losing bonus point at best at the expense of a still rudderless Cardiff.

They never came close, despite a feisty opening half-hour or so. Conceding penalties at an exceedingly giddy rate – 13 by half-time – they achieved a success of sorts by dragging the Blue & Blacks into a damning dogfight.

Indicative of this was the nonsense off the ball in the 27th minute when, yards away from the play, prop Lee Davies engaged Jamie Ringer into an arm wrestle that was going nowhere except, depressingly, the sin-bin for both adversaries. Cardiff's acting captain is on a roll in this respect : four armbands, four yellow cards; an unpalatable fact but on this occasion almost excusable because he genuinely looked to be trying to disentangle himself from Davies' grip.

If the visitors had achieved a possible aim of upsetting Cardiff's equilibrium it was a Pyrrhic victory as, moments later, centre Steve Taylor followed Davies to the bin for a professional foul, killing the ball in the shadow of the posts after a Cardiff break out. Now it was 14 against 13 and the numbers told. From Taylor's misdemeanour the Blue & Blacks opted for a scrum and Dan Preece was driven over. Gareth Davies, who had already slotted penalties from 20 and 42 metres, easily converted.

The fly-half, marooned at home in the club's cause rather than sharing the delights of sevens' rugby in New Zealand and Las Vegas with Rhys Shellard, was by some distance the nearest thing to a skilled operator on the pitch. But not even he, for all his prompting and probing, could generate any fluency or cohesion in a staccato back line.

With the lineout unreliable at best, the next try when it came was from a botched Pooler clearance, and a touchline dash by elusive wing replacement Matthew John with Jimmy Norris finishing off the move. Davies' conversion from wide out took him to 499 career points for the club but the landmark 500 was put on ice after an injury forced him off in the 54th minute. By then the Blue & Blacks were coasting but hardly chasing the bonus point tries with any conviction. The 20-point half-time lead had sent them into a familiar stupour.

Thankfully some urgency returned in the final quarter. Ryan Howells popped upon the left to take full advantage of a cleverly created overlap and Adam Powell, slipping back to his more comfortable number 8 role after new boy Cory Hill replaced Dan Godfrey, too easily charged over from the back of a close-range scrum. Chris Anderson's attempts at converting both tries inspired misty-eyed reminders of seasons past.

In between Cardiff's third and fourth tries Pooler somehow scored one of their own as from a penalty lineout and catch-and-drive flanker Rhys Bowen plopped over.

'Somehow' because on this evidence it is not difficult to understand how the bottom club's solitary victory this campaign was at home against fellow relegation candidates Ebbw Vale.

Their biggest achievement of the evening was to turn around the first half penalty count against them. Judging by the effort put in by captain and coaching staff to engage the referee as all and sundry headed for the dressing rooms at half-time, the 'Brendan Venter' school of mind games is alive and well in Gwent.

Cardiff, meanwhile, should reflect on why other contenders at the other end of the Premiership table have posted much bigger scores against Pontypool in recent months. To ignore that fact would suggest that Alice's Looking Glass is giving everyone a false impression....

Official : Huw David (Wales)

Cardiff Pontypool