Cardiff U18 lacked a clinical edge as they suffered a first defeat of the season against Ospreys on Wednesday evening in a thrilling age grade encounter.
Both sides went into the encounter with 100 per cent records in tact, but it was the visitors who took a slender lead into the break despite a Saul Hurley try.
However, ill discipline and missed opportunities allowed Ospreys to take full control in the second half, as they pounced for 14 points in a decisive 10 minute spell where Cardiff were reduced to 13 men.
Chadd Mutyambizi’s side mounted a late comeback effort with replacements Evan Wood and Owen Conquer crashing over, but it was a case of too little, too late for the Blue and Blacks, who now prepare to welcome RGC to the capital later this month.
Cardiff were dealt an early blow at the Arms Park as lock Dylan McDonald departed with a knee injury in the opening exchanges. Moments later, Ospreys rubbed salt into the wound as they secured the first points of the evening.
A midfield penalty allowed Charlie Thomas to bring play into the corner, and the resulting driving line-out saw Kian Hire plummeting over for the match’s first try.
However, the hosts weren’t deterred by the early score and found an immediate response.
Evan Rees was on hand to pick up the loose ball after Ospreys over-threw at the line-out, and powerful carries from the number eight, followed by lock Luke Evans, gave Cardiff front foot ball.
With an overlap on the left, blindside Jaden Wilkins made a powerful burst out wide before finding the returning Hurley on his inside, giving the Cardiff & Vale College captain a simple finish in the corner.
Wilde slotted the conversion to bring the scores level, and a second try looked inevitable for the young Blue and Blacks minutes later. Number nine Sion Davies broke down the blindside from a scrum, but his pass failed to find the supporting Matty Young and Tom Bowen, with the try-line at their mercy.
A Wilde penalty gave Cardiff the lead for the first time, and while they continued to apply pressure on the Ospreys, they would ultimately pay the price for missed opportunities.
A stunning break from the visitors’ live-wire full back, Ben Evans, forced the Cardiff defence to scramble, and they were unable to deny Kyle Harris from diving over in the corner.
Wilde’s second penalty of the evening made it a one-point game as the sides went into the break.
Moments after play restarted, Blue and Blacks centre Elijah Evans was held up under the posts before a second opportunity to regain the lead was missed as a long distance Wilde penalty drifted wide.
Once again, Cardiff were punished for their missed opportunities as Ospreys extended their advantage with a collapsed driving line-out leading to a penalty try and a yellow card for prop Max Bignell.
Things got from bad to worse for the hosts, as they were reduced to 13 men with Wilkins following Bignell into the sin bin after striking an opposition at a breakdown.
Ospreys made the most of the advantage in numbers, with replacement Cerith Davies securing the bonus point after a well-worked set piece.
Cardiff had a mountain to climb heading into the final 20 minutes, but the visitors continued their ascendancy as outside half Thomas created the space for number eight Harris to cross for his second of the evening.
Cardiff pulled one back as replacement hooker Evan Wood crashed over following an impressive Wilde counter attack.
Owen Conquer also brought impact from the bench and with six minutes remaining, the back row powered over to suddenly make it a one-score game and setting up a dramatic finale at the Arms Park.
The Cardiff pack were held up over the line as they attempted a close range driving line-out, but the penalty count this time mounted up against the visitors, allowing the Blue and Blacks to gain territory.
However, they failed to take their opportunities in the final moments as Ospreys held out for a 33-27 victory that catapults them to the top of the table.
The next task for Mutyambizi’s men is a home clash against RGC on Sunday, January 29.
Cardiff U18: Matty Young; Tom Bowen, Elijah Evans, Ethan Rudyj, Tom Weekley; Harri Wilde, Sion Davies; Max Bignell, Saul Hurley, Owain James, Joe Tucker, Dylan McDonald, Jaden Wilkins, Harry Beddall (capt.), Evan Rees
Replacements: Evan Wood, Cameron Tyler-Grocott, Harrison Rock, Luke Evans, Owen Conquer, Owain Paskell, Tom Hughes, Jack Kathrens
Cardiff Under-18 Men Fixtures*
Sunday, December 11 - RGC 7 v Cardiff 17 - Stadiwm CSM
Monday, December 19 - Cardiff 21 v Scarlets 12 - Cardiff Arms Park
Wednesday, January 11 - Dragons RFC 5 v Cardiff 7 - Ystrad Mynach
Wednesday, January 18 - Cardiff 27 v Ospreys 33 - Cardiff Arms Park
Sunday, January 29 - Cardiff v RGC - Cardiff Arms Park
Wednesday, February 1 - Scarlets v Cardiff
Wednesday, February 15 - Cardiff v Dragons - Cardiff Arms Park
Wednesday, February 22 - Ospreys v Cardiff
*Subject to late changes