Cardiff RFC maintained the unbeaten start to the season and extended the lead at the top of the Indigo Group Premiership to 12 points but were made to work for it by Aberavon.
The Blue and Blacks met the Wizards in what was a first v second clash at the Arms Park on Friday night, with Steve Law re-introducing Teddy Williams, Sam Beard and Dan Fish to the starting XV, while Jason Harries made his debut on the wing.
Just like at Bridgend the previous week though, Cardiff were slow out of the blocks as Aberavon dominated possession during the opening exchanges, going through two lengthy attacking sets in midfield, but not making any noticeable ground against the Blue and Black wall.
The game can turn in a moment though and as the home side won a penalty with the livewire Tom Habberfield taking the quick tap, the Wizards fly-half Aled Thomas slapped down the subsequent pass while not 10 metres back and was promptly shown a yellow card.
Dan Fish nudged Cardiff into the Aberavon half and a well-worked attack pushed us into the opposition 22 before Habberfield switched back to the blindside down the left wing with Max Llewellyn having enough power and reach to touch the ball down.
Gareth Thompson converted brilliantly and it seemed like there would be a second try coming shortly after when Jason Harries sprinted clear down the right but a brilliant tap tackle brought him down before he could find Sam Beard inside him.
Instead though, despite still being a man down, it was Aberavon who bagged the next score when Stef Andrews ventured off his wing and broke down the middle, he offloaded for Dai Pritchard before drawing the last man and putting Jon Phillips over.
The conversion went over as the visitors returned to 15 men, but the game failed to kick on, with both teams making error after error. Cardiff’s set piece regularly let them down but the defence saved them, as the Aberavon set piece functioned well but the attack let them down. A vicious circle.
Half-time came as a blessing with the game threatening to get bogged down despite being played on a plastic pitch, and allowed Cardiff to get themselves sorted a bit, bringing Peter Lloyd to strengthen the scrum.
An offside allowed Thompson the chance to nudge us ahead, although a second opportunity to add three points was missed, before the tide turned against the Blue and Blacks as James Thomas and Joe Gatt were sent to the sin bin in quick succession.
Down to 13 against a side with the back three side of Aberavon was always going to be dangerous, and the visitors managed to work an attack well unleashing Andrews and Phillips out on the left for the former to go over.
The conversion was missed though and as Cardiff returned to 15 after a period of dogged defence the two-point margin would not have been ideal for the away side.
A missed penalty of their own added salt to the wound and when Aberavon were pinged for offside Joe Scrivens made no mistake in nudging the Blue and Blacks ahead with 10 minutes to go.
The final period of the game was a back and forth affair, with Cardiff blowing opportunities to make the win secure, and Aberavon having plenty of possession with which to work a comeback, but neither side had the ability to add to the scoreboard and the hosts snuck the four points.
A hard fought encounter that perhaps didn’t have the quality you would expect from a top of the table clash, but had all the tension.
Cardiff will be pleased to have come through with the win in the back pocket though, showing the qualities of a top side in digging a victory out when the performance wasn’t at it’s best.
Next up is Newport in two weeks, with Steve Law and his coaching staff no doubt keen to use the weekend off to refresh and refocus ahead of a busy December of Indigo Group Premiership action.