Cardiff Blues rising star, Ben Thomas has reflected on a memorable campaign with Cardiff RFC.
The former Cardiff and Vale College student was named Cardiff Blues’ Academy Player of the Season, having played a key role in the Blue and Blacks’ stunning season.
While Merthyr eventually pipped Steve Law’s side to win the Principality Premiership, Cardiff did topple the Ironmen at Principality Stadium to seal their first National Cup title since the 1997 success, which featured Arms Park icons such as Nigel Walker, Rob Howley and Hemi Taylor.
Thomas crossed for a crucial try in the encounter, and the playmaker admits the final was an occasion that will stay long in the memory.
“The cup final was absolutely amazing, to put it shortly,” said the former Wales under-20 international.
“It was a tight game, and winning a game that goes down to the wire allows you to have a real burst of emotion towards the end of the match. The feeling is unbelievable.
“I did manage to get over the line and it came down to instinct. I received the pass, and saw half a gap, so playing with my head up I backed myself and luckily got through there in the end.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing with Cardiff, especially to have a good run of games with them in the Premiership. Last season was slightly disrupted with Wales under-20, British and Irish Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup games dotted across the campaign.
“But this time, I had a full run of games for Cardiff, and picked up my cap at the end of the season. I’ve been nice and settled.
“It’s nice to win any award, and in truth it could’ve gone to any of the academy boys, especially those who played for Cardiff because we had a successful season with them by winning the cup and staying in the race for the Premiership until the end.
“It’s been a really good season for myself, both individually and as a team, and it’s nice to win that award to cap off the season.”
Thomas has settled into the number 12 jersey this season, as a ball-playing centre, but is also able to feature at outside half.
The Cardiff Blues academy member believes the playmaking side of rugby is his bread-and-butter, and has reflected on his route through the pathway.
Thomas said: “I’ve always played 10 when I was growing up, but coming through the age grades I experimented a little bit as a ball-playing 12.
“I enjoy both outside half and inside centre to be honest, as they both give you an opportunity to dictate play.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching the likes of Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams when I was growing up, but more recently I love the way Danny Cipriani plays.
“It’s about looking to take bits from each of their games, mould and adapt them to your game and make yourself a niche.
“There was a lot of ups-and-downs coming through the system, especially when you were coming out of college, and it was a tricky transition at times when you came from playing against boys your own age to coming up against experienced men towards the end of their careers.
“The first few months took a bit of getting used to, but you had coaches like Richard Hodges, who had been around since I was 14 or 15 years old, and it’s been nice to have the continuity in coaching when you progress through the pathway.
“But during those tough times, you have an end goal, and you know you’re working towards kicking on to play at the highest level.
“That’s your motivation when you’re waking up at 5.30am on Sundays, and you know you’re doing it for a reason and to reach your ambitions.”