Cardiff cruised to an emphatic Judgment Day victory over Ospreys to finish the BKT United Rugby Championship season on a high.
First half tries from Thomas Young, Max Llewellyn and Mason Grady put the Blue and Blacks in touching distance of the Welsh Shield and Heineken Champions Cup qualification and they wrapped it up after the break.
The Ospreys threatened a comeback when Sam Parry rumbled over for a driving line out try but Young raced clear for his second as the hour mark approached.
That put his side away with a 24 point advantage and secured the bonus-point Cardiff needed to finish top of the pile in front of a 41,139 crowd.
Toby Booth’s side claimed a second try through Gareth Thomas and then a third through Dewi Lake but Cardiff’s lead proved unsurmountable, with Rhys Carré
With Director of Rugby Dai Young absent due to unforeseen circumstances, Richard Hodges led Cardiff into the Judgement Day showdown with a slender advantage in the battle for the Welsh Shield.
The Blue and Blacks led the Ospreys in the BKT United Rugby Championship table by four points and knew one point would secure their status as the highest placed Welsh team.
That of course, would not be enough to satisfy Cardiff’s competitive edge and with so many players leaving at the end of the season there was no shortage of motivation.
There was added spice with a dramatic stand-off between captains Josh Turnbull and Nicky Smith as the teams were due to enter the field of play, with a miscommunication over the coin toss the moot point.
Rhys Priestland got the game underway and Cardiff dominated the opening quarter. Mason Grady twice went close, first putting a foot in touch as he stretched for the line and then losing possession as he dragged three Ospreys over the whitewash with him.
The game remained scoreless despite Cardiff’s dominance of territory and possession, with shots at goals turned down for kicks to the corner and quick-taps and the Ospreys surviving by the skin of their teeth.
It looked as though Cardiff would score on 23 minutes as they turned over possession, moved the ball left and kicked ahead. Tomos Williams, Rey Lee-Lo and Grady all raced ahead in the chasing back but the bounce defied all three and Rhys Webb was able to save the day.
The Blue and Blacks finally made their early attacking edge count from the next phase play as they won the ensuing set-piece and went back on the attack with Thomas Young darting through a gap to sneak through for his seventh Championship try of the season.
Priestland added the extras and he was back a the tee five minutes later as Cardiff struck from distance.
They looked to attack from deep as slick hands put Liam Belcher on the outside. Ospreys were penalised at the breakdown and Williams went quick. He tore into the Swansea club’s half before slowing for support. With the Cardiff backline racing in support, Williams fired a pass left to Llewellyn who dived under the sticks.
Priestland made it 14-0 and the Cardiff purple patch continued as they snatched a third try in 12 minutes. It was another sucker punch for the Ospreys as Young pounced on loose ball at the back of the breakdown, with a stunning one handed pick-up.
With Luke Morgan in chase, the electric flanker knew even he would not make it so he kicked ahead in the nick of time and Grady led the chasing pack.
The on-field decision was no-try but it was third time lucky for the versatile back as replays showed he did ground the ball. Priestland kicked the conversion to make it 21-0 after 32 minutes.
Cardiff looked to have delivered a knock out blow as the clock approached half time with Jarrod Evans switching play to the left and embarking on a trademark jinking run. He fed a long, looped pass to Jason Harries, who cut inside and offloaded to Llewellyn.
Llewellyn found Williams in support and the scrum-half scooped the ball off his show laces before stepping past two and offloading audacious over contact to Young. The on-field decision was try but on this occasion replays demonstrated the ball had drifted forward.
Cardiff did however, finish the half on a high as Priestland slotted a late penalty to make it 24-0 at the break.
The Ospreys struck first in the second half, kicking to the corner and reverting to their tried and tested driving lineout. Cardiff initially defended well but the Ospreys power showed as they rumbled over with former favourite Gareth Anscombe converting.
With the score now 24-7, Ospreys had a sniff of a comeback but it was extinguished as Cardiff delivered a knockout blow as the hour mark approached and it was that duo Williams and Young at the fore once more.
Williams intercepted Anscombe’s pass, snatching the ball from the grasps of Alun Wyn Jones, and offloaded to the onrushing Young, who blazed under the posts. Priestland converted and the Blue and Blacks were now 24-points clear.
Gareth Thomas barged his way over for a second Ospreys try following a bright period but they were few and far between as Cardiff controlled the majority of the encounter.
The Ospreys scored a third try, again via their driving lineout, on 67 minutes and Anscombe converted to make it 31-21 as the game entered it’s final 10 minutes.
However, Cardiff managed to put the result beyond doubt when Rhys Carré sniped over from short range for his fifth try of the season.