It’s been a tough start to the season for Cardiff RFC who have fallen to successive defeats to kick off this all-important Principality Premiership campaign.
Things couldn’t have got much more difficult in the first week as reigning double Premiership champions Merthyr made the trip down the A470, bringing with them new signings in the form of former Ospreys winger Jay Baker and former Cardiff Blues centre and Wales 7s captain Adam Thomas.
Cardiff had new signings of their own to blood though, with one of those, Steffan Jones, sending the home side into a 15-0 lead with some clockwork like kicking that saw him score over 200 points in a spell with the Dragons.
Merthyr were held at bay throughout the first period, as the Blue and Blacks held firm with the Ironmen turning down chances to get onto the scoreboard in exchange for kicks to the corner, but a half-time spent with Dale McIntosh is usually enough to get the blood pumping.
Indeed, the visitors flew out of the blocks with Baker crossing the line and Matthew Jarvis kicking well, but Cardiff were still ahead heading into the last 10 minutes when referee Ben Whitehouse awarded a penalty try and sin binned Ross Davies after a series of scrum penalties.
Steff Jones managed to nudge the Blue and Blacks back in front despite being a man down, but it was disaster at the death as last season’s Premiership Player of the Year Kyle Evans scored in the corner to win the game for the Ironmen and leave Cardiff with just a losing bonus point.
On the back of that, head coach Steve Law made three changes to the starting XV, a mixture of forced and tactical, as Nicky Griffiths started ahead of Martin Roberts at scrum-half, Adam Jones came in for Will Rees-Hole in midfield and Amir Jiwa-Walji replaced the injured Morgan Griffiths on the wing for the trip to Llandovery.
Unfortunately, any positivity that was taken from the narrow defeat to Merthyr evaporated in the wind and rain at Church Bank as the Blue and Blacks suffered a disappointing defeat.
There were early chances to get on the board as Steffan Jones missed two penalties, while opportunities to threaten the try line were scuppered by errors, before Llandovery opened the scoring after a serious of strong driving mauls saw Peter Lloyd sin binned and the referee running under the posts.
Jones did kick a penalty just before half-time to make the score 7-3 at the break, but the performance level dropped even further in the second half with errors made right across the field in handling, game management and defence, allowing Llandovery to cruise to victory.
The game was wrapped up 20 minutes from time when Luke Crocker was adjudged, harshly in my opinion, to have made an illegal hit on a player without the ball, and Drovers fly-half Jack Maynard put three more points on the board.
Two minutes later he turned provider as a perfectly timed inside pass sent Joseff Powell over under the posts, and his conversion ended the scoring with the scoreline showing 20-3.
Unfortunately a nasty injury to centre Adam Jones, who required 32 stitches and two operations on his ear, overshadowed events somewhat, and all at CF10 wish him a speedy recovery. Get that scrum cap out!
It leaves Cardiff RFC 13th in the Principality Premiership, still early in the season, but with a big improvement in performance required to ensure that we don’t fall into the bottom four places in the league, or even fifth from bottom with Pontypool likely to be the side winning the WRU Championship.
This Saturday sees old rivals Newport coming to the Arms Park, with the Black and Ambers flying high after bonus point wins away at Carmarthen and home to Bargoed. No time like a derby to spark the season into life. Come on Cardiff!