Cardiff A’s British and Irish Cup campaign ended with a late defeat at home to London Welsh in an exciting encounter at the Cardiff Arms Park. Richard Hodges’ mix of experience and youth were not able to stop the Exiles knocking them out, despite leading into the 80th minute, as Olly Barkley’s late penalty took the win for the away side.
There was two late blows for Cardiff A before kick-off, Tommy Isaacs and Cam Dolan were both withdrawn from the squad, to travel to London with the first team for injury and illness cover as it turns out. To replace them, Gavin Dacey started at 12 with Harri Millard moving to 13, while Miles Normandale came in at lock. On the bench, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Callum Hall took their seats.
In un-Cardiff A style the game got off to quite a tense start, maybe the pressure of the occasion and the late changes knocking the home side somewhat. Eventually it was the away side through top scorer Guy Armitage who scored the first points of the game, finishing off some well structured London Welsh attacking through a number of phases.
This sparked Cardiff into life, well young winger Elis Wyn Benham at least. A loose Olly Barkley kick found it’s way to the academy player who picked his man, opposition hooker Nathan Morris, waltzed past him and wandered under the posts. A brilliant piece of kick returning. Gareth Davies and Olly Barkley had traded conversions to make it 7-7.
The fly-halves were at it again for the rest of the first half, first up Davies kicking a penalty, before Barkley matched him, Rhys Shellard being sin binned for his infringement on that occasion. Despite being a man short Cardiff A kept their noses in front through Davies and went in 13-10 up at half-time.
It was the Cardiff fly-half again who increased the lead with his third penalty but then London Welsh turned the screw. Two tries in 10 minutes, firstly a good finish from centre James Lewis in the corner, and then a catch and drive from a lineout which flanker Darren Waters benfitted from, along with one Barkley conversion, put the away side in the driving seat with 25 minutes to go.
However, yet again Cardiff A got the kick up the backside and it was an inidvidual moment that got us back in it. Replacement scrum half Lewis Jones charged down his opposite number Josh Davies’ kick, collecting the ball himself and getting over the line. Replacement half-back partner Jarrod Evans’ conversion was successful and all of a sudden we regained the lead.
The pressure was really being piled on now as Richard Hodges’ men looked to put the game to bed. Newly converted hooker Scott Andrews put in a beautifully weighted kick in behind the London Welsh defence, pushing them back to their try line, and the kick chase turned the ball over. Quick delivery from Jones to Evans gave the young fly-half space and he put in an inch-perfect cross field kick over the head of Alan Awcock for Benham to score his second try of the afternoon. Evans followed up his assist with a tricky conversion, and Cardiff were eight points to the good with under 10 to go.
Could London Welsh repeat their last-gasp comeback from Old Deer Park? Uh well yes, but not without the help of the referee. The Exiles went through their phases again and were soon in the redzone. Number 8 Kieran Murphy went for the carry but was brought down a yard short. However, a second later, the referee had his arm in the air and Barkley was teeing up for his conversion. How he missed Murphy’s double movement I don’t know.
Following Barkley’s successful conversion Welsh were just a point behind, and before long the referee was signalling for an away penalty following a ‘deliberate’ knock on. It was the former England fly-half to be the hero, and the hero he was. 32-20 with 20 seconds left. Well at least so the game clock showed, the referee had other ideas as he blew up early and went straight down Ladbrokes to collect his winnings.
A really disappointing way to end our hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the British and Irish Cup. Unfortunately I can’t find the referees name but he didn’t cover himself in glory in those last five minutes. The positives come in the discovery of Elis Wyn Benham and the impact of Jarrod Evans off the bench definitely.
In fact the whole A team role of giving game time and experience to young players has been a success this season. I will write a piece on whether the A team has functioned well or not for Cardiff upon completion of our BIC campaign, but before that we have our last game away in Nottingham next week. Come on Cardiff A!!