Cardiff fell to a heavy defeat to red-hot DHL Stormers in Cape Town as they departed South Africa empty-handed.
Following last week’s disappointing defeat to Emirates Lions, Cardiff were determined to take something home to the Arms Park but the star-packed Stormers dominated.
The Blue and Blacks made a much more assured start than in recent weeks and were unfortunate to concede a number of tries against the run of play as they entered half-time trailing 19-3.
It was perhaps an unfair reflection on the first-half but there could be no queries over the second as the Stormers moved up the gears in devastating fashion.
Having claimed three first-half tries, they notched up another three in the space of seven minutes thanks to Junior Pokamela, Evan Roos and Rikus Pretorious.
The Blue and Blacks fly back to the UK overnight and face Glasgow Warriors at the Arms Park next Saturday as the United Rugby Championship continues.
Cardiff made a composed start to the encounter and threatened early on with a Jarrod Evans chip unlocking the Stormers defence. Matthew Morgan won the race to the ball but was unable to hold on with Jason Harries outside in support.
There was also controversy early on as James Botham broke from the back of a scrum on his own five metre line and was tackled high. Replays showed Deon Fourie had connected with Botham’s head with his own head and shoulder. No action was taking and the TMO did not intervene as play continued.
However, the Blue and Blacks played a much more territorial game than in recent weeks and they earned a penalty at the breakdown on seven minutes, which Evans slotted.
They continued to keep the Stormers on the back foot with a combination of physicality and clever kicking and the likes of Theo Cabango, making his URC debut, lively in the wide channels.
Cardiff continued to threaten, and saw a driving line-out held up over the line, but it was the Stormers that claimed the opening try. They struck against the run of play after the ball was spilled in the Cardiff midfield, Leolin Zas did the damage outside before putting Ruhan Nel away.
Mannie Libbok converted to give his side. 7-3 lead and the Stormers surged further in front shortly after the half hour mark with Zas the beneficiary on this occasion.
It came in bizarre and fortuitous fashion as Seabelo Senatla twice gambled and won. First, instead of catching Libbok’s pass, he hacked ahead on the volley and he then dive to slap the ball back.
Those unorthodox plays unlocked Cardiff’s defence and the bounce of the ball then fell to Zas to finish. Libbok failed to add the extras with the score now 12-3.
Cardiff could feel hard done by to go into the break nine-points done but they were dealt a devastating blow as the Stormers struck in stunning fashion with the final play of the half.
Warrick Gelant chipped over the Cardiff defence and he then combined with Herschel Jantjies, who delayed his pass perfectly send Libbok over. Again it was a try from nothing, but with the conversion added, it left Dai Young’s men staring down the barrel at 19-3 going into the break.
They returned for the second-half without Rory Thornton, who received treatment following a heavy collision just before the break, with Teddy Williams the replacement. His first action was to claim the kick-off but Cardiff were penalised at the breakdown and the Stormers went to the corner.
Evan Roos almost barrelled over from a set-play before his offload was knocked on but Cardiff remained camped in their own 22.
Another speculative chip over the top again caused chaos as Damian Willemse managed to hack ahead. The move led to Roos powering over but he was held up.
The Stormers continued to turn up the pressure in sapping conditions, they threatened on numerous occasions but were unable to finish thanks to Cardiff’s never-say-die defence and handling errors.
Their electric back-line attacked from all angles, taking quick-throws and showing little hesitancy to throw speculative offloads.
An impressive carry from the back of a scrum from James Botham gave Cardiff a good attacking platform and Jarrod Evans then sliced through in typical fashion. He didn’t quite have the pace to leave the Stormers defence in his tracks and his desperate offload drifted forward.
Having played the entire second-half in their own half, the pressure eventually told and cracks began to appear for Cardiff.
The hosts, at full strength, needed no second invitation and they scorched over for three scintillating tries in the space of seven minutes thanks to their electric pace, handling and power.
Pokomela, Roos and Pretorious all crossed as the Stormers turned on the style and while Cardiff fought until the death there was no consolation.