Cardiff U18 19 Scarlets U18 17
Despite a spirited fightback, Cardiff U18 suffered a narrow defeat to Scarlets on the final day of the Women’s Regional Championship.
The young Blue and Blacks already had the title secured heading into the final weekend of action, having lit up the tournament with their enterprising brand of rugby.
Scarlets raced to an early 14-0 lead but Cardiff worked their way back into the encounter with Niamh Padmore and Seren Lockwood dotting down either side of half time.
A third Scarlets try stretched their lead to seven points but a late Madison Isgrove score gave Cardiff late hope of a comeback.
However, it wasn’t enough as the west Wallians ran out with a 19-17 win - but it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the Blue and Blacks, who finally got their hands on the trophy, sparking post match celebrations.
With the title already secured, Cardiff named a much-changed side for the season finale, handing valuable playing opportunities to the wider squad.
However, it was the west Wales outfit who dominated the early exchanges, and while the dogged defensive efforts from Cardiff initially held them out, the pressure eventually told as the pack forced their way over for the game’s opening score.
The Blue and Blacks’ hunt for a swift response was led by Lockwood, who was a continual running threat on the fringes of the breakdown. However, the mazy runs would often leave the scrum half isolated, allowing Scarlets to pinch possession and relieve the pressure.
Scarlets extended their advantage with a well-taken breakaway score. Wing Ffion Davies, who looked lively throughout the first half, hacked possession upfield, and had the pace to win the footrace and dot down under pressure.
Chloe Wilkins once again added the extra to extend Scarlets’ lead to 14 points.
The Blue and Blacks were in need of inspiration and, as has often been the case, it came courtesy of Shanelle Williams. The hooker, who has impressed throughout the campaign, stormed into the 22 to put Cardiff on the front foot. The tempo continued through the sniping work of Lockwood, opening space for Niamh Padmore to pounce.
Cardiff’s increasing momentum continued into the second half and they crossed quickly to bring the scores back within two. The Blue and Blacks worked their way into the 22 and it was scrum half Lockwood who unlocked the defender with a sniping dart to cross for a well-earned score.
The number nine, backed by a solid scrum platform, continued to be at the heart of Cardiff’s good work in attack. The young Blue and Blacks looked particularly threatening when playing the open, expansive rugby that had led them to the title, but handling opportunities meant the champions elect weren’t able to find the decisive breakthrough.
Scarlets made the most of a rare attacking opportunity in the second half as Leyah Davies crossed the whitewash to restore a seven-point advantage.
The likes of Nia Fajeyisan and Madison Isgrove made in-roads in the wider channels but it looked like Cardiff would rue their missed opportunities.
A late Isgrove score raised the hopes of the Blue and Blacks, but it was a case of too little too late for Darren Bool’s side, who suffered their first defeat of the campaign.
However, the two point loss did little to dampen the spirits as Katie Sims and Riley Stanger lifted the trophy to kick off the celebrations amongst the family and friends present.