Cardiff won a pulsating game at the Arms Park against the Champions Merthyr in a game that held everyone’s interest until the very last kick.
In a first half that was as forgettable as the second was unforgettable both sides seemed to be trying to serve up a dull encounter. Neither side really got going. Merthyr made the better start and their set piece scrum and lineout were yielding position and the ball for large parts of the half. But one thing that has shone through in the last few games is that this Cardiff side will not be bullied and the Blue & Black defence was outstanding in keeping the visitors at bay.
When Cardiff did have a sustained period of pressure they got their reward. A high tackle resulting in three points from the boot of Gareth Thompson. All the ball the Ironmen had was eventually going to lead to points and the score came courtesy of a try set up by the forwards but dotted down by scrum half Justin James. That left the half time score 5-3 to the visitors and the coaches of both sides with some work to do in the break.
Whatever was said worked as the game sprang into life. Merthyr increased their lead when their set piece again reaped rewards. A loose kick had given them territory and when a penalty was kicked into the corner the resulting maul saw Ben Murphy crash over. The conversion rebounded of the post to keep the lead to one score.
Cardiff came back with a driving try of their own. This time set up by some great work by Owen Lane and Pat Lewis. When the ball was eventually smuggled into touch Merthyr must have thought the danger had gone but James Down disrupted the lineout, Luke Crocker pounced and after consulting with his Assistant visiting referee Cwengile Jadezweni (SARFU) awarded the score. Thompson was just wide with the conversion but put the Blue & Blacks ahead when a high tackle on Will Rees-Hole was penalised. The one-point advantage was bettered when replacement flyhalf Ben Thomas added a penalty of his own this time for offside.
Cardiff were creating lots of chances and Dan Fish, who made a welcome return to the Blue & Blacks, was at the heart of most things. When he spotted space down the right he set Llywarch Ap Myrddin free. The full back looked to link with Pat Lewis but he was dragged back (an offence that was not spotted by the officials) and nothing came of the break.
Lewis did get his chance a few minutes later, however. This time Fish linked with Rees-Hole, Lewis backed his centre up and was on his shoulder to take the pass and score. Thomas added the conversion and Cardiff looked in control.
Merthyr weren’t finished and the set piece was again going to bring reward, the referee awarding a penalty try at the first time of asking to cut the deficit to four points. The visitors should have gone back in front but the defining moment of the game saw them fall short. Kyle Evans collected a loose ball and when the wing burst through the Cardiff defence it looked like the Ironmen were heading for another try. When his inside pass found Teri Gee the centre looked for all the world like he would score. Owen Lane had other ideas and his determination not only cut Gee down a few centimetres from the line but also dislodged the ball for Cardiff to clear.
That seemed to give Cardiff the belief that they could win the game. Thomas kicked a straight forward but nonetheless pressured kick to extend the lead to seven when the referee reversed a Merthyr penalty after some retaliation. The Blue & Black defence did the rest as they saw out the last few minutes with Reuben Tucker and Rhys Carre to the fore of the effort.
Next week the Blue & Blacks visit Bargoed in a game that kicks off at 2:30pm