There are dead rubbers and there are dead ducks. This lively encounter may have been the former; it was certainly not the latter. Both sides entered into the spirit of the occasion and the result was an entirely worthwhile exercise at the end of the ultimately disappointing set, in results at least, of pool matches.
Yet the Blue & Blacks' narrow failure to qualify for the knock-out stages of the inaugural British & Irish Cup may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. One look at the remaining fixtures in the Principality Premiership, including no fewer than five rearranged matches, will confirm that there is more than enough rugby to be getting on with in the weeks ahead.
When Ayr pounced for a converted try within two minutes of the start, anyone could be forgiven for assuming this was going to be a soft affair with a surfeit of tries and tackling an option but not a necessity. Certainly there was a suggestion of that as Cardiff's midfield defence obligingly went AWOL, flanker Andy Dunlop touched down, and points' machine Frazier Climo converted.
That feeling was still there when Cardiff immediately hit back, though their try, finished off by Craig Morgan, was not so much down to phantom tackling as impressive footwork by Gareth Davies.
After that, the game settled down. Climo kicked a 20-metre penalty goal, Kristian Gay hobbled off (the helicopter hovering overhead was not, despite disparaging suggestions to the contrary, on stand-by to airlift him to the relief of the prospective stretcher bearers), and Cardiff eventually took the lead in the 19th minute when Davies again dodged and darted and replacement prop Dan Preece, who was to contribute much throughout the match, scored the try. The fly-half converted and, on the half-hour, added a 25-metre penalty goal.
Cardiff looked well in control when Ayr skipper Damien Kelly was binned for a professional foul and from the resulting scrum Dan Godfrey made the hard yards and Rhys James, in lively form, finished off the move.
But an interval lead of 20-10 was overtaken in the third quarter as flanker Paul Burke was at the bottom of the pile to score from a text-book catch and drive off a penalty lineout, wing Steven Manning took the scoring pass (again from Burke), Climo converted both – and then added a three-pointer from a scrum penalty: 20-24 after 53 minutes.
Cardiff's reponse was impressive. Quick ball courtesy of Rhys Shellard off the top of a lineout went straight to Tom Slater and the replacement scrum-half showed a great eye for the gap, pace and determination to race the best part of 40 metres without the proverbial hands being laid on him. Davies converted easily and, when Cardiff's first penalty of the half belatedly arrived in the 77th minute, there was no need to apologise to end the stalemate by kicking for goal.
Over it went. Another bonus point win for Cardiff but Doncaster Knights, already through after their unsurprising (for that, some might read 'surprise, surprise') big win at Pontypridd in midweek, were completing their 100 per cent record with a fifth pool victory up north against Rotherham Titans.
Cardiff v Ayr may have been academic, but it at least maintained the Blue & Blacks' momentum with a sixth victory in seven competitive outings since their Yuletide aberration against the Wanderers. Onward in the Premiership, if not upward in the cross-border competition.