Cardiff lifted the National Cup for the first time in 22 years after a fast exciting game at the Principality Stadium
Defending Champions Merthyr were the first to strike. After only two minutes a missed tackle allowed Kyle Evans space to race over for a try that Matthew Jarvis converted. Cardiff came straight back and were soon on the scoreboard with a Gareth Thompson penalty. But the Ironmen increased their lead when another Cardiff mistake allowed Evans to exchange passes with Jarvis before scoring, the conversion though came back off the upright.
From there Cardiff started to gain control of the game. A series of penalties saw them get close to the Merthyr line but the last pass did not going to hand allowing Merthyr to clear. The pressure was eventually to tell and a lineout close to the Merthyr line was driven but stopped just short. The ball was retained and a few phases later Martin Roberts and Gareth Thompson combined to give Tom Daley space. The powerful back row headed straight for the line, and Merthyr efforts to hold him up he was able to spin out of the tackle to score, Thompson converted.
Cardiff continued to press the Merthyr defence and two penalty attempts from distance were pushed wide as Merthyr started to infringe. The third attempt though went straight between the posts to give Cardiff the lead. In the dying seconds of the half Merthyr were awarded a kickable penalty, but were unable to capitalise to send the teams in for the break with the Bluen & Blacks holding a one point advantage.
The second half began at a fantastic pace. Merthyr flew at Cardiff, but the Blue & Black defence, which has been outstanding this season, withstood everything that was thrown at them. They were to get the reward for the efforts when turnover ball was moved quickly left. A combination of Ben Thomas and Gareth Thompson combined before the inside ball landed in Edd Howley’s hand’s, following Terri Gee’s attempted interception. The Merthyr wing could only look on in horror as the ball looped into the hands of the grateful Howley The fullback gleefully dotted down for the try, Thompson again converting.
Now two scores behind Merthyr threw caution to the wind. Cardiff were defending for their lives, but eventually that defence was breached with Rhys Downes spinning off the back of a driven lineout to score. Jarvis added the touchline conversion. With just a point between the sides either a mistake of a touch of magic was going to win the game, and we had more than our share of both. First Cardiff scored their third try when a move off the back of a scrum allowed Thompson to send Ben Thomas into space. The centre burst through the gap as he brushed off the first tackler and handed off the last line of defence to score. Thompson’s conversion smashed into the post to leave Cardiff just one try clear.
Merthyr were now starting to find an advantage but Cardiff’s defence was outstanding as they stopped anything Merthyr tried. Tom James made a break that looked dangerous for Cardiff. He was tackled, but he managed to offload the ball to the supporting player. It looked for all money that he would score until Howley took him and the ball into touch. Further mistakes with a few minutes to go seemed to lift the Cardiff defenders again. Gareth Davies kicked a penalty towards the Cardiff try line to give Merthyr a platform to catch and drive, but Howley was on hand again as he reached into touch with his feet in play to pluck the ball out of the air and then send the ball back beyond half way to clear the danger. When Merthyr dropped the ball on half way to give Cardiff a scrum the clock turned red, the ball was successfully won and Gareth Thompson planted it into the stand to spark huge celebrations for those in Blue & Black.