2009/2010 British & Irish Cup
Cardiff 34 v 27 Rotherham
27 February 2010 - Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Rotherham Titans

Match Report

Cardiff 34 Rotherhan Titans 27

The entertainment industry returned to the Arms Park as Cardiff kept their British & Irish Cup ambitions alive. What a difference a new competition makes: shorn of the over-familiarity, hidden agendas and negative spoiling of internecine domestic rugby, we had, for once, eighty minutes of attack and counter-attack even on a glue-pot pitch.

Fresh off their bus after a five-hour journey, the Titans set the tone by running and probing for open spaces from the off. The Blue & Blacks immediately took up the challenge and the upshot was a crackerjack first half in particular.

Rotherham had converted centre Andrew Henderson at full-back dashing here, there and everywhere at every opportunity and Canadian test flanker Adam Kleeberger offering support wherever he went. Cardiff more than matched that with Gareth Davies dodging and darting in impish delight and Ryan Howells a perennial threat with his powerful runs off the wing and into midfield.

The Titans had two tries on the board inside the first ten minutes. Kleeberger scored both, the first off a slick front of lineout switch, the second when his support play was again in evidence and, perhaps, he broke tackles rather too easily. The very organised fly-half Jonny West converted the second.

Cardiff immediately responded with a brace of their own. Davies broke out of his own 22 and linked with Jimmy Norris on halfway for a clear run in to the posts. Then Dan Godfrey made ground from a scrum, Howells came in to midfield and Darren Ryan finished off the thrust. Davies converted both.

Twenty minutes on the clock; two cleverly constructed tries each; Cardiff 14-12 ahead. Had spring sprung?

In the second quarter Davies kicked a penalty, West replied with a drop goal and Robin Sowden-Taylor had a ten-minute enforced break after pulling down a Titans' maul that had gone all of 30 metres and was almost over the home line. Reality had kicked in.

Four minutes into the second half the visitors regained the lead thanks to the deftest of box kicks by scrum-half Neil Chivers and wing Jon Feeley touching down in the unguarded right corner. At 17-20 and still temporarily reduced to 14 men Cardiff had the perfect answer. A mix-up in defence from the restart ended with Davies fly-kicking through only to be blocked by replacement Ryan Burrows in the shadow of the posts. The obvious penalty try was easily converted as Burrows overlapped with Sowden-Taylor in the bin.

Cardiff's international flanker was soon back in the thick of things forming a dynamic two-pronged threat with club skipper Rhys Shellard called up off the bench. The match ended as it had started with breathless action. On 71 minutes patient build-up resulted in a try for Shellard; in injury time Scottish lock Gregor Hayter powered over at the posts for the Titans; Davies and West in turn converted their tries; and, with the last kick, and the Titans paying the price for trying to run the ball from their own line, Davies kicked his second penalty.

Cardiff's destiny is far from settled. Doncaster's bonus point win keeps them a point ahead in the pool and with a game in hand – that being a visit to Pontypridd on Wednesday. From up the A470 the sceptre of old rivalries has a say in what happens next.

Nothing changes. Or does it? Cross-border competition: just like the good ol' days....