Realistically a home game against semi-professional Italian opposition on a typically freezing January evening at the Arms Park probably shouldn’t be one of the most memorable moments of the decade.
However, knowing that a big win was needed to keep up the pressure on London Irish at the top of the European Challenge Cup pool stage and ensure that we at least finished as one of the best runners-up to progress to the quarter-finals, Cardiff Blues put on a real show.
A disappointing festive period in the few weeks beforehand had seen Mark Hammett’s side lose at home to Dragons on Boxing Day before managing to scrape a victory at Rodney Parade on New Year’s Day and then lose at home again to Leinster the week after.
With rumours increasing about discontent behind the scenes at the Arms Park as the New Zealander coach’s methods were implemented, an injury crisis in the tight five did not help proceedings as Scott Andrews was forced to pack down in the second row while Kristian Dacey covered back row from the bench.
Despite that, and a number of changes in the squad generally as big names were rested before a trip to Grenoble the following week, Cardiff Blues flew out of the blocks and tries from Lloyd Williams, Richard Smith, Josh Turnbull and Rhys Patchell ensured the bonus point was in the bag by the 21st minute of the match.
Smith grabbed a second while Sam Hobbs, Ellis Jenkins and Cory Allen bagged tries before the break to wrap the game up by half-time, but the home side were not done there with the scoring as they continued to entertain a crowd of 4,733 in minus temperatures at the Arms Park.
Williams and Jenkins scored their second tries each while Smith wrapped up his hat-trick before Macauley Cook, Kristian Dacey, Scott Andrews and Gareth Davies made the score 97-12 as the clock turned red.
Urged on by the crowd who were keen to see the scoreboard at the Arms Park break as much as anything, Cardiff Blues attacked one more time and after a number of phases managed to get over the line through Lewis Jones to the biggest cheer of the night.
It was a game that broke all Cardiff Blues records, which still stand today, as we scored our most points in a match (104), most tries in a match (16), kicked the most conversions in a match (12), and secured our biggest win (104-12).
Mark Hammett would go on to depart the Arms Park a month later, but not before we had beaten Grenoble and ensured passage into the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup. We probably wished we hadn’t have done so though when, under the caretaker watch of Paul John and Dale McIntosh, we went down 25-21 to the Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Cardiff Blues 104-12 Rovigo
Tries: Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies, Richard Smith (3), Cory Allen, Ellis Jenkins (2), Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, Kristian Dacey, Lloyd Williams (2), Sam Hobbs, Josh Turnbull, Lewis Jones
Cons: Gareth Anscombe (7), Gareth Davies (5)
Team: Rhys Patchell (Gavin Evans), Richard Smith, Cory Allen, Adam Thomas, Geraint Walsh, Gareth Anscombe (Gareth Davies), Lloyd Williams (Lewis Jones); Sam Hobbs (Thomas Davies), Matthew Rees (Rhys Williams), Fa’ao Filise (Craig Mitchell), Scott Andrews, Chris Dicomidis (Macauley Cook), Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins, Manoa Vosawai (Kristian Dacey)