It was a bit like after the Lord Mayor’s show in the 2009/10 season. Having won the title in the previous season Cardiff were to finish in mid-table in their attempt to defend the crown.
The first two games were a sign of things to come later in the season. A trip to Cornwall for a friendly against the Pirates in Camborne looked a tough one and that was realised when the home team ran riot, scoring ten tries in a 60-13 win. The Whites were the first visitors to the Arms Park in the League. The Blue & Blacks were in charge right up to the last five minutes, the visitors scoring ten points in those last few minutes to win the game.
The following week the Blue & Blacks gave a very weak Ebbw Vales side a lesson in how to finish. Three excellent tries from the wings showed what Cardiff were capable of when they put their minds to it. At the Wanderers the following week the visitors were pushed all the way by the home side that included Sam Warburton and several other future Regional players. A draw against Cross Keys at the Arms Park followed, Gareth Davies scoring 22 points with the boot.
The Blue & Blacks got back on the winning track against Neath the following week when Davies was again the hero, one point down with the last play of the game the fly half slipped back into the pocket and dropped a beautiful goal to give the home side a 22-20 victory. The Drovers came to the Arms Park on a good winning streak the following week and halted the winning run. Tom Slater scored early for Cardiff but Llandovery capitalised on every mistake the home side made, only a late Chris Anderson penalty gave the Blue & Blacks a losing bonus point.
A six try win at Pontypool Park was followed by a two home victories, the first a three try win over Carmarthen Quins and then a bonus point win against Bedwas. A double over eventual title winner Neath was achieved at the Gnoll. A sunny day allowed Barbarian style rugby. Neath scored three tries but Cardiff spread the ball at every opportunity and scored five excellent team tries to win 39-27.
A visit to Sardis Rd resulted in the first loss in five as Ponty came out on top in the first of three games in this season. The second game was switched to the Arms Park two weeks later as the pitch at Pontypridd was un-playable. This was the first of the British & Irish Cup and Cardiff gained revenge for the earlier defeat. Dean Gunter kicked two penalties for Ponty but two Ryan Howells tries sealed the win. Sandwiched between was the now normal loss at Rodney Parade before another B&I cup win this time away to Birmingham & Solihull. James Loxton scored a record five tries in the completion as the Blue & Blacks ran riot and secured an away bonus point win.
Two away wins in the league followed, a first at Parc-Y-Scarlets was followed by taking Pontypridd’s ground record in a dramatic game. The home side looked to have secured victory following the fifth of Dean Gunters penalties, but a former favourite at Sardis Rd – Lee Jarvis was to spoil the party. In the last minute Loxton found space and when his pass was collected by Jarvis to dot down in the corner the Blue & Blacks were a point in arrears. The conversion though had a certain inevitability and sailed through from the former Ponty player to give the visitors a one point victory.
A loss at home to an Andy Powell inspired Wanderers side was followed by a great escape in the cup a week later. Bedlinog led 3-0 until a last minute penalty try saw the home side through. An Andreas Pretorius inspired Cardiff gave the Drovers a six try hammering at the end of January, before a trip to Lyn Howell’s Doncaster that left Cardiff knowing exactly what was to be needed to progress in the B&I Cup. Newport were the next obstacle in the SWALEC Cup and Cardiff recorded their first victory at Rodney Parade in the Premiership years. Being 3-20 down didn’t help early on, but the comeback was completed with tries from Tom Slater, Gareth Davies and Ryan Howells.
It was then back to the B&I Cup with two home wins against Ayr and Rotherham, that though was not to be enough as Doncaster finished top of the group to progress. A win over Ebbw Vale the following week was marred by the sending off of Ian George, Dan Preece, his replacement though scored twice as Cardiff kept a clean sheet in defence to leave them sitting a few points off second place and looking good for one of the play-off spots on offer. A further win away at Carmarthen cemented that place before a loss at Bridge Field to a Bedwas side fighting for survival.
The following week took Cardiff back to the same venue, but this time in the SWALEC Cup. The result was as different as the weather, rain the week before had allowed the Bedwas pack to get on top, sunshine this week and four tries from the backs – Tom Slater, Gareth Davies, Darren Ryan and Craig Morgan – saw Cardiff safely through to the semi-final.
A victory over Newport at the Arms Park was followed by a loss at Aberavon where the Blue & Blacks simply didn’t play. Mid-week saw a victory over 14 man Cross Keys but only by a point having been in control all game. Llanelli were next to be beaten in the league before the wheels came off, just at the wrong point of the season. Defeat to the ‘baby Scarlets’ in the league was followed by an exciting but none the less frustrating draw against Aberavon.
The cup semi-final was played against Llanelli at St Helens on a beautiful spring day that had everyone excited about two sides who loved to run the ball. On the day it was only one side that it worked for and Llanelli ran in six tries, future England star Ben Morgan one of those try scorers. A defeat at St Helens in the league to Swansea in the final game of the season left Cardiff facing a fourth game against Llanelli in the play-off. Despite being in the game all the way through though Cardiff’s season end at the Parc-Y-Scarlets as the home side triumphed 14-9.