Merthyr 14 v 36 Cardiff
30 August 2008 - The Wern, Merthyr Tydfil

Match Report

Merthyr 14 Cardiff 36

Two late tries by Gareth Chapman and Lee Jarvis only served to flatter the Blue & Blacks after a disjointed affair at the Wern Field. Midway through the second half two tries in as many minutes by Merthyr had reduced Cardiff's lead to 24-14. That both came from midfield interceptions in their own half further underlined the lack of cohesion and cutting age in the visitors' back line.

Local product Adam Powell was appropriately appointed Cardiff's captain for the day and the early signs had been encouraging as Gareth Davies and Craig Morgan both made thrilling breaks that suggested every likelihood of a try fest. It never really happened. Merthyr, as expected, were doughty opponents. They fielded several players with Premiership experience including half backs Neil Burnett and Tom Dickens and former Blue & Blacks Bob Mordecai, Aaron Fowler and Andrew Hutchins. The latter, in particular, showed up well in the first half.

Cardiff lost scrum half Luke Evans with a head injury in the 27th minute and with half back partner Gareth Davies also being replaced during the interval, the backs were unable to build on their promising start. Davies had opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a classic dummy and dart from a lineout on the left and a touchdown under the posts that he easily converted himself.

Eight minutes later Richard Cornock powered over from a forward drive for an unconverted try.

There had been plenty of running around in the sunny conditions but with the home defence fully stretched the crucial passes too often were delayed or went to ground.

More promisingly, Ryan Howells twisted and turned through half tackles for another try at the posts in the 34th minute to which Davies added the extras.

Merthyr began well in the second half but Cardiff's set-piece defence was reminiscent of the fine work done last week in Coventry. Rather against the run of play, Kieran Crawford crossed to stretch the lead to 24-nil with half an hour left to play. Then the sloppiness crept in. Two ambitious passes in midfield were gratefully gobbled up, first by right wing Lloyd Stapleton and then fly-half Burnett for a brace of tries, both converted by Burnett.

If egg was not quite on Cardiff's face then there was certainly a feeling that they needed to increase the tempo and accuracy of their play. It more or less materialised. A mix-up in Merthyr's defence gifted a try to Gareth Chapman in the 76th minute and with the last move of the match Lee Jarvis cantered in for the sixth try which he converted from halfway out on the left.

The watching Cross Keys' coaches on the touchline may have been encouraged as they prepared for next week's Premiership opener at Pandy Park. That's the good news for them. The even better news for Cardiff is that the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Roger Davies, Rhys Shellard and James Down are likely to be back from Blues' duty and in the frame for the start of the competitive campaign.