After successive defeats to Ebbw Vale and Bedwas, Cardiff hoped to return to winning ways when close rivals Pontypridd visited the Arms Park. The game got off to the best possible start for the Blue and Blacks when after a period of concerted pressure Will Rees-Hole was put over in the corner. The lead only lasted for a couple of minutes before a momentary loss of concentration allowed former Cardiff player Diggy Bird (who was to prove a thorn in the side all afternoon) scored near the posts – his conversion edging Ponty in front. Things got even better for the visitors a few minutes later when another former Arms Park favourite, Rhys Shellard, touched down, this time Bird was unable to add the conversion. Both sides were playing some good rugby and the game had a closeness and intensity that has sometimes been missing from recent encounters. Gareth Thompson was able to add a couple of penalties to bring Cardiff within a point with half an hour of the game gone. In the last ten minutes of the half an Alex Webber try and Bird conversion extended the Pontypridd lead. Gareth Thompson and Diggy Bird exchanged penalties to give Ponty a 22 – 14 lead as the interval approached. With time running out before the break Owen Lane put smiles back on the faces of home supporters when he dived over in the corner, Thompson again converting from a difficult position. Then on the stroke of half time disaster struck for the Blue & Blacks when, as they tried to apply pressure just outside the Pontypridd 22 their captain, Joey Tomlinson, was injured in a tackle. As the medical staff came on the referee took the decision to end the half a few seconds early as the injury was clearly going to take some time to treat.
Half time saw a tag game with children of Ysgol Gymraeg, Caerfilli – but the eyes of many spectators were on the prostrate player being treated nearby, before being stretchered off the field by Cardiff and Pontypridd medical staff.
When play resumed versatile front row man Ian Jenkins had moved to hooker with Peter Lloyd making his debut at tight head. The second half was just as tight as the first with both sides pushing forward to try and make the breakthrough. It was the Blue and Blacks that struck first when Owen Lane broke clear and fed Lewis Jones in support for the scrum half to canter to the line and score. Gareth Thompson again added the conversion putting Cardiff 28-22 in front with half an hour to go. Diggy Bird pulled the visitors back to within three points with another successful penalty before the decision that changed the match. With Ponty on the attack and being repelled by a resilient home defence the referee deemed that some of the home side’s tactics were not legal and sent Dan Fish to the sin-bin. Having already spent 10 minutes of the first half reduced to 14 (after Will Rees-Hole incurred the wrath of the official) Cardiff were to find a further period with reduced resources more than could be managed. Pontypridd tails were now up and in the closing 12 minutes they added tries from Aled Summerhill, Hemi Barnes and Rhys Shellard. Two of these were converted by Diggy Bird (who deservedly won the man of the match award) and the third by the seemingly ageless Ceri Sweeney. The final score of 46 - 28 to the visitors did scant justice to the Cardiff performance.
The game proved a timely reminder that rugby is an 80 minute game and that you need all your players on the field to have a chance of beating teams like Pontypridd.
The sad news from the physio’s room after the game was that Joey Tomlinson had damage to his ACL and would require surgery, keeping him out for the remainder of the 2017-8 season.