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Cardiff RFC clinch Indigo Group Premiership after dramatic run-in

Pathway | 29th April 2022

Cardiff RFC lifted their first league title since 2009 in dramatic fashion on Thursday, as the race for the Indigo Group Premiership went down to the wire.

A few weeks ago, the destiny of this year’s title seemed a foregone conclusion in some quarters, with Newport holding a comfortable lead at the summit following their 38-6 victory over the Blue and Blacks at Rodney Parade.

However, the Black and Ambers’ back-to-back defeats to Merthyr and RGC opened a slender opportunity for Steve Law’s men, but they had to be pin-perfect in their pursuit with four games remaining.

A run of four consecutive bonus point wins - culminating in last evening’s win over Merthyr - saw the Blue and Blacks secure an impressive 20 points from 20 to pip their east Wales rivals to be crowned league champions.

Wins over Llandovery, Swansea and Pontypridd set up a dramatic finale at the Arms Park on Thursday, where only maximum points would be enough for Cardiff as the Ironmen visited the capital.

The away side had motivations of their own heading into the final clash of the season, with head coach Dale McIntosh set to depart The Wern after six years at the helm.

But the hosts’ big match nerves were eased with less than two minutes on the clock, as a midfield link-up between Dan Fish and Jason Harries released young full back Cameron Winnett through for the evening’s opening try.

It was one down and three to go for Law’s side, but Merthyr weren’t going to go down without a fight and struck back through Aaron Pinches to bring the score within two points.

However, The Rags continued to enjoy the majority of possession and territory in a physical encounter, with first team stars such as Mason Grady and Teddy Williams providing the go-forward for the hosts.

And despite Morgan Allen being denied a try under the sticks, having lost the ball while dotting down, moments later scrum half Ellis Bevan’s floated pass found James Beal in space, and the wing needed no second invitation to join his back three partner on the scoresheet.

Bevan was also called into defensive action to deny former Cardiff academy player, Tom Pascoe, from capitalising on a charge down, while at the other end of the pitch, lock Williams broke through the first line of defence but was unable to find Harries in support.

Alun Rees - a regular on the scoresheet this season with six to his name before Thursday - burrowed over from a dominant driving maul to add Cardiff’s third, sending the Blue and Blacks into the break with a commanding lead. The try led Rees to the top of the league's try scoring charts ahead of Theo Cabango.

The next score would prove pivotal in the encounter, and Cardiff would need to find it without their talisman, Dan Fish, who departed with an ankle injury.

Merthyr made the Blue and Blacks work hard for their bonus point score, but young centre Grady, who recently recovered from a significant knee injury, continued to impress in front of the Arms Park crowd, this time drawing in defenders before calmly sending Beal into the corner for his second and - all importantly - Cardiff’s fourth.

As the Ironmen looked to work their way back into the clash, the result was put beyond doubt when Grady intercepted Gareth Thompson’s pass to race away for a well-earned score of his own.

The likes of Luke Scully and Winnett chipped in with key defensive contributions and while Logan McIntosh crossed the whitewash in the final moments, Cardiff held out to kick off the party and lift a long-awaited league title, having been denied the trophy due to the pandemic in 2020.