Cardiff left the Arms Park pitch with their heads held high after a sterling performance against Cardiff Blues in another useful pre-season workout.
The Blues had the big guns on duty with eleven internationals in their line-up at various stages but it was the Blue & Blacks who had the big hearts. They may have been the underdogs but Tristan Davies’ young team snapped away with wit and ambition to capitalise on opposition mistakes - which, it has to be said, were in regular supply - to make what could so easily have been a one-sided match into a competitive occasion.
The Blues, for their part, were understandably keen to go through their training ground drills and fine tune their structures in readiness for the tough season ahead of them. In the first half that usually meant focusing on Xavier Rush as the ball-carrier or taking every penalty opportunity to set up platforms for catch-and-drive lineouts. In due course the latter, in particular, paid off but not before Cardiff had embarrassed them with their opportunism.
The pattern was set in the opening stages. In the second minute a Cardiff attack of several phases was rewarded with a penalty that Craig Evans easily goaled from 20-metre range. The Blues reasserted territorial domination but their ball retention was poor and from another spilled pass in the Blue & Blacks’ 22, new full-back Roger Davies seized on the loose ball to kick and chase all the way to the distant Blues line for a popular try. Leigh Halfpenny’s attempted conversion from wide out rebounded off an upright but 8-0 was still a satisfactory start.
The Blues were eventually spared their blushes when a lineout near the club’s line set up quick ball, something of a rarity so far, for fly-half David Flanagan to show and go past a flat-footed defence for the sweetest of tries under the posts. Ben Blair converted but was less successful three minutes later when from yet another catch-and-drive on the left the ball was worked to the right and Jamie Roberts squeezed in at the far corner.On half an hour, the familiar scenario was played out again: another lineout in the left corner; another drive into midfield; and this time Bradley Davies, an early graduate from club to regional rugby, powered over near the posts for Blair to add the extras.
Now it was 19-8 to the Blues but the proverbial floodgates never opened. New Blues’ lock Paul Tito was yellow-carded for killing the ball in the 36th minute before an uncharacteristic slip in the Cardiff defence allowed another former Blue & Black of recent vintage, Tom James, to score the Blues’ fourth try of the half.That was almost as good as it got for them. Despite bringing on an entirely new pack and half-backs after the interval it was again Cardiff who struck first. Sloppy passing by the Blues was punished by fleet-footed wing Ryan Howells who intercepted and raced 80 metres for a try that brought the biggest cheer of the evening. Craig Evans’ conversion took his club points tally in 12 months to 299 - and now it was 15-24.A feature of Cardiff’s play was the outstanding lineout work where James Down and newcomer Damian Welch were proving to be a nimble duo and they continued to frustrate Blues’ possession in that area.
Open-side flanker Adam Whitney was also as effective in the second half as Dan Franks had been in the first.Eventually, Blues’ power in the contact situations paid off with tries by centres Tal Selley and Dafydd Hewitt, with Blair converting the first. But the Blue & Blacks never threw in the towel and deserved the appreciative reception they received at the final whistle. It was tempting to think at that point that the club side had interested a new fan base for the Premiership campaign ahead. If so, it was nothing less than they deserved.