Cardiff RFC continued the defence of the WRU Specsavers Cup with a comprehensive away win at Llanelli on Saturday, although the result was overshadowed by a horror injury to Blue and Blacks flanker Alex Everett.
While the injury was a tough one to see, head coach Steve Law will no doubt be pleased to see progress in the competition continue, although perhaps more important was to see his side bounce back from a tough defeat against 14-man Carmarthen in the Indigo Group Premiership last weekend.
On the back of that Cardiff showed five changes to the starting XV, with Iestyn Harris and Will Davies-King in up front, Callum Bradbury returning to the second row, Max Llewellyn starting at outside centre and Edd Howley in at full-back.
It was a confident start from the Blue and Blacks going through the first lengthy attacking set of the game in the Llanelli half and although that couldn’t go anywhere, the home side’s clearance did not make any metres and we were back on the front foot.
A relentless amount of carries took Cardiff up to within inches of the try line before Will Davies-King was able to power over for the first score of the game, Gareth Thompson adding the extras.
Thompson was converting again just moments later when the away side kicked the restart and Llanelli opted to run it back. However, the hosts knocked on in doing so and Edd Howley was on hand to scoop up the loose ball, beat a man and turn on the afterburners to go under the posts.
The home side did get into the game with a penalty from Ioan Hughes after Cardiff were penalised for holding on, but Thompson came back with a penalty of his own after Teri Gee, Max Llewellyn, Sam Pailor and Morgan Allen had carried hard.
After this early flurry of points scoring the game settled down as Llanelli managed to get their hands on the ball for some extended spells while the Blue and Blacks attempted to get the driving maul going into the opposition 22 but saw the ball turned over.
In the end the scoreboard got moving again thanks to the unpredictable bounce of a rugby ball as the home side chipped over the top and as Howley and Gee converged to snuff out the danger but the bounce took the ball into the path of Jonny Lewis to score, with Hughes converting.
At 10-17 the game hung somewhat in the balance with half-time on the horizon but an error from Llanelli saw them return a Tom Habberfield kick through out on the full and the Blue and Blacks started heading towards the try line.
Unfortunately play was stopped as Alex Everett suffered a broken and dislocated ankle requiring lengthy treatment. He is wished all the best in his recovery.
When the game did eventually get back underway Cardiff wasted no time getting back over the line though, with Sam Pailor the man who eventually carried over from close range.
Gareth Thompson converted and added another penalty before the break, with the Blue and Blacks taking a 10-27 lead in at half-time.
Llanelli weren’t ready to lie down at the start of the second half though as they immediately set up camp in our 22. The pick-and-go tactic could not break us down but they spun the ball wide and a smart offload sent Kalum Evans over with Ioan Hughes converting.
That sparked Cardiff into life though and a well chased Tom Habberfield box kick by Iestyn Harris and Zach O’Driscoll forced a knock on. From the scrum the backs struck with James Beal breaking off his wing, and then finding Edd Howley for the full-back’s second try of the game.
Still Llanelli stayed in touch as they returned to our 22 and another smart offload this time allowed Nathan Hart to dive over, but missed conversions from Hughes left the score at 20-32.
Cardiff then controlled the last 20 minutes of the game well, dominating possession and territory albeit not getting on the scoreboard until the last kick of the game as Joe Scrivens knocked over a penalty to ensure passage to the semi-finals once again.
The Blue and Blacks now enjoy a well deserved few weeks off until the Premiership trip to Ebbw Vale on the 15th February, with the next round of the Cup due to take place on the weekend of the 28th March.