Cardiff Blues 7s headed up to Coventry and the home of Wasps rugby, the Ricoh Arena, on Sunday to take part in the Singha Premiership 7s Finals for the second time. After qualifying as Welsh group winners in dramatic fashion at the Arms Park, they were looking to go one better than losing to Gloucester in the Cup semi-finals last time out.
Richard Hodges was forced into a number of changes due to Wales U18 call-ups making Ben Thomas, Dane Blacker, Jim Botham and Ben Jones unavailable and Geraint Walsh had Pontypridd commitments. This meant the call-up of academy flanker Morgan Sieniawski, Cardiff RFC full-back Ceri Young, Newport 7s players Ethan Davies and Jonny Lewis, and Llanelli 7s’ Aron Wyn Evans.
Cup Quarter-Final: Cardiff v Sale
Cardiff 7s opened the afternoon’s proceedings with their Cup quarter-final game with Northern group runner-up Sale Sharks. Hodges chose the experienced starting VII of Wales internationals Adam Thomas, Owen Jenkins, Ben Roach and Ethan Davies, alongside GB Students 7s player James Beal and previously capped Wales 7s Jonny Lewis. Academy youngster Declan Williams completed the line-up.
The game got off to a cagey start before two quick fire tries saw Cardiff take a 10-0 lead at half-time. First a quick Jenkins tap-and-go penalty saw him dive over from five yards out, followed by Jonny Lewis going it alone from the base of the scrum. A comfortable lead at the break but it was quickly destroyed by Sale’s Curry twins scoring two tries in two minutes, with a conversion to take the lead.
A dramatic final five minutes ensued as Jenkins put Cardiff back in front with his second try of the game following neat play in midfield with Williams, who subsequently kicked the conversion. However it was to be Sale that would strike the fatal blows to our Cup campaign through firstly eight-try sensation of the group stages Paolo Odogwu, and then Curtis Langdon following a neat break off the top of a lineout.
Plate Semi-Final: Cardiff v Northampton
However, the afternoon was not over for the squad as losing the first game meant shifting to the second tier competition, something we’ve become quite accustomed to in XVs, and taking on the Saints who had fallen to Exeter 38-12 in the quarter-final.
If the Northampton side thought a 26 point deficit was bad, they hadn’t seen anything yet. Ethan Davies’ try inside a minute set the tone for the game, and although a Northampton try briefly put them two pints behind, further tries from Davies and James Beal saw us take a 19-5 lead at half-time. Another three tries from Joe Tomlinson, Adam Thomas and Jonny Lewis meant a last-minute Saints try was only a consolation in a 40-10 hammering.
Plate Final: Cardiff v Harlequins
Following that battering of Northampton it was into the Plate Final for the Cardiff 7s players and a chance for a second trophy in two weeks. Standing in the way were last year’s Challenge Cup pool opponents Harlequins who had lost to eventual Cup winners Wasps before beating Newcastle in the Plate semi-finals.
Things did not get off to a good start at all for Richard Hodges’ men as Harlequins scored two breakaway tries through Oscar Hirskyj-Douglas and Dino Lamb-Cona, which sounds a bit like a curry. However we managed to get back into the game just before half-time as Ethan Davies and James Beal both showed off their pace to finish some good team moves. Two Davies conversions made it 14-12 to Cardiff and we were right in the ascendency.
The second period started how the first ended with Beal grabbing his second, but the tide swung back in Quins’ favour thanks to two tries in as many minutes from speedster Jonas Mikalcius to put the London side 21-22 ahead. However, as they showed at the Arms Park, the Cardiff 7s side is not one to give up on a game and new boy Aron Wyn Evans adopted that ethos brilliantly as he scored a fantastic individual try with just seconds on the clock.
Harlequins could not muster a response and Cardiff Blues 7s won the Singha Premiership 7s Plate by a scoreline of 28-22. An excellent way to start the season with two pieces of silverware by early August. Although there were no senior contracted players involved I’m sure they would have been watching and are friendly with those players who did represent us, and the excitement and confidence of winning the trophy will filter through.
It’s all about bringing the winning mentality back to the club and with the XVs pre-season starting on Friday ahead of a huge season, that is more important than ever. Come on Cardiff!!