Cardiff secured a valuable bonus point win over Ebbw Vale at the Arms Park on Friday night despite being behind on the scoreboard for the first hour of the game.
Steve Law had made seven changes to his starting XV that lost to Newport last week with Thomas Davies and Iestyn Harris coming into the front row, Rhys Anstey getting the nod at second row alongside Alex Everett moving up from back row as Alex Mann made a first Rags start at blindside flanker. Jack Maynard came in at fly-half, Ryan Wilkins at outside centre and James Beal was fit again on the wing.
However it was bottom of the table Ebbw Vale who made the faster start with a perfectly judged 50/22 giving them an attacking lineout right in the corner and the driving maul, which would cause the Blue and Blacks problems all night, secured the converted try.
The Steelmen really should have extended their lead during the course of the first half, returning to the Cardiff 22 after a second 50/22 kick but being held up before missing a relatively straight forward shot at goal, however their stubborn defence meant the home side could not capitalise, or even put points on the board for some time.
Despite having a dominant scrum the lineout misfired four times out of five in the first period for the Rags, while lengthy attacking sets got us over the gain line but failed to generate a line break until a miss-pass that would have seen Theo Cabango streak away was batted down by the Ebbw left winger.
He was subsequently shown a yellow card and Cardiff set about making the most of a man advantage, creating an overlap on the left wing only for James Beal to see the ball dislodged from his grasp as he went to score in the corner. Fortunately a penalty advantage allowed Jack Maynard to open our scoring account but a 3-7 deficit at half-time left work to do.
The second half started as the first ended with the Blue and Blacks dominating possession and territory but struggling to turn that into attacking opportunities, however, playing downhill and Ebbw tiring slowly started to open the game up a bit. Beetham couldn’t quite aim one penalty after another big scrum but Maynard cut the deficit after Alex Mann had made a scorching break and the away scrum-half was shown a yellow card for killing the ball.
From that point on the game was all Cardiff as Mann popped up again, this time winning a penalty over the ball in defence allowing Dan Fish to kick us into the corner and the forwards got to work with a big maul drive seeing Iestyn Harris score.
Ebbw Vale did briefly think they were back in the game when they got over the try line but it was a clear double movement and the Blue and Blacks punished them as Fish kicked a 50/22 and then Ioan Evans ran a beautiful line on first phase ball to go over for a try converted by Beetham.
The Steelmen saw another player sent to the sin bin as the replacement tighthead prop was shown a yellow card, that could well have been red on another day, for a high tackle on Cabango. Fish took the Rags back to the corner and the maul got to work again with it being dragged down short and the referee headed under the posts for a penalty try.
There was now opportunity to grab a bonus point win with a final try, and although James Richards was shown a yellow card for some afters at a breakdown, Fish was able to produce another superb 50/22 and although Ioan Evans was pulled down short on first phase this time, the ball went wide quickly for Beetham to get over for a try and convert it himself.
An utterly dominant final quarter saw Cardiff run out 32-7 winners in the end, and as Newport could only take two bonus points in a defeat against RGC on Saturday evening, the Blue and Blacks continue to hunt top spot in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup’s eastern division.
The Rags go away to Pontypridd next Saturday, with the Black and Ambers travelling to Merthyr.