Four tries in 12 second half minutes, two of them for centre Tom Shanklin, were at the heart of the Cardiff Blues' effort as they defeated a Northampton Saints 43-13 at the Arms Park.
The first match of the season at the Arms Park was a very open game with both sides looking to attack. Northampton were awarded a penalty early on after Cardiff Blues had obstructed a Saints player. They were awarded a further ten yards for chatting back and eventually decided to kick for the corner. The decision paid off after they won clean ball in the line out and Alex Rae was driven over the try-line. Everitt hooked the conversion wide.
The Blues were then awarded a penalty for holding on and this time Robinson kicked for the corner. However, they failed to capitalise on their territory and the Saints were awarded a scrum and cleared. Despite gaining good field position, the Blues were failing to hold onto the ball and making problems for themselves.
The Blues however always looked to spread the ball wide where Gareth Williams did well to keep the ball in play and pass the ball inside. Eventually the breakthrough came when the ball appeared from a ruck and Nick Robinson put in a deft grubber kick for Gareth Williams to again pop up on the wing and ground the ball. Robinson was finding good field position with his kicking and Jamie Roberts showed his strength in the midfield.
It wasnt long before the young medical student got on the score sheet. Mark Lewis put in a powerful run and was supported by Nick Robinson. The ball emerged for Roberts to crash through the defence to score under the posts. Robinson converted. However, Barry Everitt got on the scoreboard for Northampton with a long-range penalty to bring the half-time score to 12-8.
Cardiff Blues 12 Northampton Saints 8.
A new team started the second half for the Blues and made an impact in the opening minutes. Spice spread the ball to the blind side and Sweeney put in a grubber. The Northampton winger failed to gather and the ball bobbled into Sweeneys hands, who then touched down. Good interplay between backs and forwards saw the Blues again progress into the Saints twenty-two. The breakthrough nearly came when the Blues won a penalty and the line out. From the ruck, Andy Powell knocked the ball on as he attempted to carry two men over the line.
However, the score soon came. Czekaj gathered a Northampton clearance and passed long to Blair who fed Mustoe. The winger did well to draw his man and pass to Shanklin who had the speed to score in the corner. Shanklin soon got his second as Allinson showed his class. The ball was knocked on by the Saints and the scrum-half gathered. Whist drawing his man and dummying to the right, he passed inside to the left, where Shanklin gathered and sprinted in from 40 yards. Blair converted.
The next try was a great team effort. The forwards did well to turn the ball over and quick hands through all the backs ended up with Czekaj showing hed lost none of his pace to sprint in for the score. Sweeney converted from the touchline.
Halfpenny, who had come back on in the second half was the next on the scoreboard, with a great individual try. He gathered a clearance and saw the gap to chip ahead through the defence. He had the pace to hack the ball on and gathered to score. Sweeney again converted.
Saints did look to attack when they could but the Blues defence was solid with pairs of players going into tackles driving the attackers back. Eventually they got a consolation try late on when they worked the ball wide to Rob Milligan who used the overlap to dummy and touch down. However, it was the Blues who celebrated a great win ahead of the opening Magners League match against the reigning champions Leinster next Saturday.
Blues 1st half Davies (Blair 30mins); Halfpenny, J Robinson, Roberts, Brew; N Robinson, Spice; Gill, G Williams, Filise, Down, Tito (capt), White, Sowden-Taylor, Lewis.
Blues 2nd half Blair (Halfpenny 61mins); Mustoe, Shanklin, Hewitt, Czekaj; Sweeney, Allinson; Jenkins (Roberts 61mins), Thomas, Powell, Davies, Morgan (capt), Molitika, M Williams (Shellard 61mins), Powell.
Northampton Saints Diggin; Harries (Greenhalgh 40mins), Ansbro (Brake 61mins), Mordt (Storey 76mins), Mayor; Everitt, Foden; Smith (Vickers 71mins), Hartley (Friswell 71mins), Stewart (Broster 61mins), Lord (Giles 73mins), Rae (capt)(Cannon 61mins), Lawes, Lewitt (Neale 73mins), Hopley (Milligan 40mins).
Cardiff Blues Tries: G Williams, Roberts, Sweeney, Shanklin (2), Cezkaj, Halfpenny; Cons: Robinson, Blair, Sweeney (2).