After spending five frustrating months on the sidelines, Ben Thomas was delighted to return to action in a monumental BKT United Rugby Championship victory over DHL Stormers.
The reigning champions were on a 15-match unbeaten run in the competition, a run in which they won the title and notched up 14 wins including a 40-3 Cape Town triumph over the Blue and Blacks.
But Cardiff recorded a third consecutive victory over their own as they brought the Stormers charge to a halt, much to the delight of a fired up home crowd and Thomas, who pulled on the number 15 jersey.
He said: “We were saying it's an amazing time to play the Arms Park when we have those close games and we can really feel the crowd get behind us. We can't emphasise how much it helps us out there. That makes a real special occasion.
“It's been a real good day. I've been really missing the game to be honest. It's probably the first time in my career that I've had a substantial time out. It's just amazing back up playing.
“I had a bit of a shoulder injury, grumbling on. it was ligaments and a bit of bone loss. I had to have a pretty big op in the end.
“I was alright at first, but as I started getting back into training, training without playing is obviously always hardest part. I was starting to get the itch. So I'm just happy to be back out there.
“We knew the kicking game will be massive this week and there's not many people better out there than Rhys to sort of bring that to the party.
“We knew that the Stormers were going to bring a strong set-piece game, so it could be quite frustrating, especially for us backs just watching and not being able to help.
“But we knew if we stayed in the game we would get opportunities and we had to be clinical with them and we were.”
With back-line injuries mounting, Thomas, who is more accustomed to pulling on the number 10 or 12 jersey, lined up at full-back and produced a composed performance at the back.
He was solid under the high ball, always appeared to have time and utilised his cannon right boot.
The Cardiff and Vale College product was pleased with his comeback and was more than happy to slot in at the back as he continues his development.
Thomas continued: “Gone are the days of someone playing one position. It generally helps both on an individual level and for the team that you're versatile.
“So I'll always like to keep my options open and keep working on. My core skills will hopefully allow me to be able to slot in a few different positions.
“It (Wales experience) was probably more the process throughout the week gearing up to the Test match, how much prep needs to go into having your performance at that high level.
“So that was a eye opener. Everyone always likes to think they work hard, but when you get in that environment you realise quite how hard you need to be working. That’s probably the main thing I took away from those guys.
“My kicking volume was probably the main thing that went up. Working with Neil Jenkins, was real good throughout the autumn, so it's quite a good insight into how much we need to keep on top of those things.
“It gets a bit harder weeks like this where you have to learn a few new skills . Get under the high ball a bit more, but definitely just the hours you need to put in extra to the normal training sessions.”
Next up for the Blue and Blacks is another home encounter, against Edinburgh on Sunday, October 30, and Thomas is keen to see his side continue heir momentum.
They then have have three weeks off before travelling to South Africa for encounters against the Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls.
He added: “My rehab was 16-20 weeks so I always knew I could be back for one or two games at the end of this block.
“We’re on a real good run at the moment, which is key for us now going into pretty challenging period with two games out in South Africa and then into Europe.
“Momentum is building quite nicely. It's important for us to carry on this momentum because we’ve got a real tough period coming up, so being up here in front of our fans will be another special occasion for us and we've got to make sure we keep building.
“It's probably the best start to the season we've had for for a fair few years. It probably helps out a few games at home as well because the crowd got a massive for us.”
Cardiff finish the opening block of BKT United Rugby Championship fixtures against Edinburgh next Sunday at the Arms Park (15:00). Tickets are selling fast but you can secure yours today by clicking here.