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Huw Llywellyn Davies looks back to iconic fixture

First Team News | 11th December 2023

Cardiff versus Bath. November 1996.

It remains one of the most memorable occasions in European rugby. A battle between two giants either side of the Severn Bridge.

The extra seats in front of the Taff End boxes, two iconic kits and that Nigel Walker try are all images etched in the collective memory of anyone fortunate to have been there. 

On the mic that day, commentating for the BBC was Huw Llywellyn Davies. Here, he shares recollections on a thrilling encounter and an iconic win for the Blue and Blacks. 

“It was a day to make everybody excited,” recalls the retired commentator. “You’re going back to the halcyon days of games between the Welsh teams and teams from the southwest of England. You yearn for those fixtures to return.

“It was absolutely packed. There were spectators where you've never seen them before, hanging over the balconies of the flats in Westgate Street, not a seat anywhere, and the two teams were so, so talented. I think 29 of the 30 who started the game were full internationals, and that says everything about the game. So everybody was looking forward to a Titanic struggle. 

“You're thinking of the Cardiff team, for instance. Rob Howley, Jonathan Davies, Mike Hall, Nigel Walker, Jonathan Humphreys, Hemi Taylor. And then with Bath, you had Jason Robinson, Mike Catt, Andy Nichol, Jeremy Guscott, Phil DeGlanville, Victor Ubogu and Ojomoh up front.


“There was so much talent everywhere, there was so much anticipation and of course, it was a game between the team, Cardiff, who were the losing finalists in the inaugural European competition the previous year and the far and away best side in England.”

Fourteen thousand packed into the Arms Park that day, as Jonathan Davies pulled the strings, Nigel Walker bagged a sensational try and Lee Jarvis booted the Blue and Blacks clear.

“The early scores were an exchange of penalties between Mike Catt and Jonathan Davies. Lee Jarvis put over a few later on, if I remember well, after he came on his replacement. But the highlight of the game, undoubtedly, was a magical try by Nigel Walker, who hadn't long been a rugby player, known as an athlete.

“Lots of people thought he was just an athlete, who happened to be playing on the wing because he was so fast in rugby union. But that try, when he took a pass, a flat pass from Jonathan Davies on a superb angle, sidestepped and swerved, passed three defenders to score… anybody who said he wasn't a rugby player would have to revise their views after that. 

“He showed the instinct to come on the correct angle and the skills as well to beat three or four defenders in what was crucial, crucial try. 

“But that wasn't the end of it because Bath came back, scored a try themselves through Nathan Thomas as it happens, the only Welshman in the Bath side and it was down to the final minute because there were three points between the teams. 

Bath had a penalty, a kickable penalty from distance but they opted not to go for the post to try and tie the scores. They were more positive even than that. They wanted a score, they took a short penalty, a tap penalty, a few phases, but then they lost the ball, the final whistle went and Cardiff and the Arms Park was jubilant. 

“It was Cardiff who went through, unfortunately no further than the semi-final when they lost. But when you're looking back, it was one of the great, great days of European rugby. held in Wales.”

While a 14,000 crowd is no longer possible at the iconic Arms Park, tickets have been selling well for the encounter and the biggest attendance of the season is anticipated come Saturday night. 

And Llywellyn Davies is hoping the Blue and Black faithful will turn out in their droves to create a vociferous European fixture like yesteryear. 

“It would be great if we could have that sort of atmosphere, that sort of support to try and inspire their team

“If they can make a lot of noise and get the team to realise that there is a huge amount of support behind them, then that would really inspire them in what is going to be another great game.

“Perhaps we haven’t got quite the same stardust on the field, but the occasion itself demands that sort of support and to have a great result as we did then, hopefully.

Cardiff against Bath, European Cup, it conjures up so many memories of one of the most memorable occasions in Welsh club rugby. It's there on a Saturday night, all club games will be over, so they're free to go to Cardiff, support that side, their side, in this area and against the traditional opponents from the other side of the bridge.”

There will undoubtedly be a large contingent of supporters from Pentyrch RFC, where the 78 year-old is now president. 

And the Tyrchs will be keeping a close eye on one of their own in the encounter - Seb Davies, who came through the ranks at Parc-y-Dwrlyn Field

“We're all proud of Seb here. He plays in the back row, in the second row but when he came up through the Mini and Juniors, here in Pentyrch he played in the centre. So that shows the skill set that he's got as a player. 

“His contribution to Cardiff is great and let's hope he leads the charge, others follow and that we have another great occasion to save at Cardiff Arms Park.”