Cardiff RFC got their 2019/20 Indigo Group Premiership campaign off to a flying start on Friday night with a last-gasp win over Pontypridd at the Arms Park.
After a disjointed pre-season, with the squad split between Blue and Blacks pre-season friendlies and Cardiff Blues A duties, it was not known exactly how the team would function, especially with eight new signings in the starting XV.
However the home side flew out of the blocks, crossing the whitewash twice inside the first 15 minutes and leaving Pontypridd looking shell-shocked.
First it was a well-worked first phase strike play from a midfield lineout that brought Joe Gatt across from the blindside wing to beat a man and make a line break before handing possession to Edd Howley to score, before Gatt was involved again with a turnover and break. He was pulled down short but James Ratti was on hand to drive over.
Gareth Thompson converted both tries for a 14-0 lead, but on the back of that Cardiff appeared to take the foot off the pedal somewhat, as Pontypridd began to get their hands on the ball more and grow into the game.
Initially the home side dealt with what was thrown at them comfortably, with Leon Andrews imperious defensively in the outside centre channel at the beginning of his second spell at the Arms Park, with some big tackles and a turnover, as well as a turnover coming from new club captain Morgan Allen.
However, just before half-time Pontypridd attacked with Dale Stuckey kicking and chasing down the left wing and pinning the Blue and Blacks in our own 22. From a subsequent lineout Dafydd Lockyer ran a perfect cutback line from inside centre and crossed for the away side.
Ben Jones converted and the scoreline showed 14-7 at half-time, with the break coming at the right time for Cardiff to hopefully re-group in the sheds, and the game did indeed settle down early in the second half.
Jones and Thompson exchanged penalties but a key moment in the game saw Gatt sent to the sin bin for what was deemed to be a deliberate knock-on by the referee. A harsh one, with the winger trying to gather the ball above his head, but a promising attack was indeed prevented.
Some big goal line defence from the 14 men of Cardiff held the visitors up for some time, but eventually they got over the line when Alex Webber produced an excellent offload for Morgan Sieniawski to score in the corner.
A Jones conversion and two further penalties saw Pontypridd take a 17-23 lead for the first time, but as the game crept into the final five minutes the Blue and Blacks seemed to spark back into life and work up the field thanks to back-to-back dominant driving mauls.
There was a momentary question of judgement when the third penalty saw us turn down another lineout for a scrum, but a lengthy attacking set eventually saw Edd Howley cross for his second try as the clock turned red.
With the lead at just one point and the conversion coming from just five metres away from the touchline, the pressure was on replacement fly-half and debutant Joseph Scrivens to nail the kick. Fortunately he held his nerve and nailed it, securing a 24-23 win.
Considering the less than ideal preparations and the fact there were a number of new combinations on the field, to secure a win over rivals Pontypridd in front of the Scrum V cameras was particularly pleasing, and saw Steve Law’s men get off to a better start than last season.
Attention now turns to defending the Specsavers Cup, as the Blue and Blacks head up to RGC in a repeat of last year’s second round tie, with kick-off at Parc Eirias coming at 2.30pm.