An under-strength Cardiff Blues got their pre-season campaign up and running with 23-34 victory over London Scottish on Saturday at the Richmond Athletic Ground.
Winger Aled Summerhill grabbed a hat-trick as the Welsh side scored six tries with a number of youngsters putting their cases forward to be regularly involved when the Guinness Pro14 kicks off in two weeks.
Head coach Danny Wilson decided to leave the majority of his senior players watching from the stand as he named a matchday squad of 26 players with an overall average age of just 22, including Wales internationals Dillon Lewis and Seb Davies.
There were also returns for long-term injury absentees Brad Thyer, Josh Turnbull, Lewis Jones and Dan Fish, as well as a debut for Jack Roberts after the centre joined from Leicester over the summer.
It would be two of those players, Fish and Roberts, who would start the game the brightest as first Fish almost scored inside two minutes when chasing his own grubber kick, before Roberts couldn’t quite capitalise on a clean break.
Cardiff Blues opened the scoring with just five minutes on the clock though as they went wide on the second phase of a five metre scrum, with Jarrod Evans’ lovely long pass finding a wide open Aled Summerhill for the first try of the season.
Fly-half Evans couldn’t add the extras, and soon Cardiff found themselves behind as London Scottish full-back Craig Holland wandered through a large hole in the defensive line before Basil Strang was able to power over from close range.
Plenty of food for though for new defensive consultant Shaun Edwards as he watched on from the stands.
Strang was back on the scoreboard a few moments later with a simple penalty in front of the posts as Cardiff’s discipline began to desert them.
However, the young Blues side visibly grew in confidence as time ticked on and, as the forwards began to get a foothold, Jarrod Evans began pulling the strings.
Summerhill had one try disallowed after putting a foot in touch attempting an audacious diving finish in the corner, but switched to supplier soon after as a delightful inside pass out of the back of his left hand released Harri Millard to go clear over the try line.
Another Strang penalty begged the visitors back slightly, but Summerhill’s second try of the afternoon, and a Kirby Myhill score off the back of a rolling maul, as well as two conversions from Evans, saw Cardiff Blues head in at the break with an 11-24 lead.
The second half was a story of replacements, as they often are in pre-season friendlies.
London Scottish made the majority of their changes at half-time, and it showed as a sweeping Cardiff Blues move caught the hosts napping, with Tom James starting an attack on the left hand side before Aled Summerhill was able to complete his hat-trick in the right corner.
However, Danny Wilson then began to rotate his squad after sending the same XV out after the break, and Scottish were able to take advantage as their second half side got up to the pace of the game.
Two tries in five minutes from Ed Milne and Danny Kenny, with one successful conversion from Jake Sharp, brought the home side to just six points behind as they pinned an increasingly youthful Cardiff side back in their own territory.
Eleven changes in all for the visitors was a constant source of change, that took until the last few minutes to really overcome when the forward pack produced the moment of the match for lovers of good old-fashioned rugby.
A lineout won just outside the London Scottish 22 resulted in a dominant rolling maul that stormed over the try line in the arms of Macauley Cook. Ben Jones missed the conversion and the game finished 34-23.
Plenty of positives to take for Danny Wilson as he works towards the Blues’ Pro14 opener against Edinburgh at the Arms Park on 1st September.
Preparations continue on Friday as Cardiff welcome Exeter Chiefs to the capital, with a drastically different squad expected to be seen, as the majority of the internationals at the club return to action.