It was the first traditional Boxing Day derby between Cardiff and Pontypridd rugby clubs since 2019 and Cardiff got the match underway.
Prior to kick-off there was a late change with Alex Lloyd replacing Dale Stuckey in Ponty’s starting XV, Jordan Howells coming in onto the bench to replace Lloyd.
Ponty gathered the kick-off but kicked the ball out on the full having taken it back into their own 22. Cardiff had an immediate platform to attack but some good work on the floor at the ruck saw Ponty win the penalty and they cleared their lines.
The first passages of play and sustained pressure belonged to the away side, Ponty were working hard and burrowing deeper into Cardiff territory. Burnell then slid a kick through behind the onrushing Cardiff defence and the home side gathered possession but under Ponty pressure weren’t able to make much distance from the resulting box-kick. Ponty had a good attacking platform from the line-out but knocked on a few phases later and Cardiff cleared their lines.
Nearly a quarter of an hour now on the clock and Ponty got the match’s first points, Ben Burnell slotted a penalty which was earned by the pack at the scrum set-piece.
A few minutes later Ponty were awarded another penalty at the scrum but this time playing advantage spun the ball wide and Burnell again kicked through and the ball was taken out into touch by Cardiff in their 22. Ponty secured the ball from the line-out and Rob Jones was the beneficiary as the rolling maul crossed and collapsed over the Blue & Black’s try line. Burnell’s conversion from out wide hit the post but Ponty had a deserved 8-0 lead after 18 minutes of play.
Cardiff got themselves onto the scoreboard almost straight from the kick-off – Rory Harries was penalised for holding on and Dan Fish knocked over the penalty for 3 points to 8.
24 minutes were played when Cardiff got their first try of the afternoon. From a scrum the home side were playing advantage when scrum-half Tom Habberfield fed right wing James Beal. Beal evaded a couple of Ponty tackles and it looked like he would get the try but for an excellent cover tackle from Cai James but Cardiff didn’t panic, secured the ball and from the resulting phases prop Rhys Barratt hit a good line and crashed over for the try. Fish added the extras and the home side were in the lead for the first time in the match at 10 points to 8.
The following passage of play was fairly even and played in the middle 40 metre area of the Arms Park pitch. Just over half an hour played and the match’s first real flashpoint. Cardiff carried the ball into Ben Burnell in midfield and the carrier seemed to lead with a forearm into Burnell’s face. Despite mass protests from Ponty, play was allowed to carry on and Cardiff worked their way deep into Ponty territory. Cardiff went left and some good hands looked to have put winger Dewi Cross in for the try but the last pass was forward and Ponty were awarded the scrum. Ponty struggled to clear their lines under Cardiff pressure and that pressure took its toll when centre Aaron Pinches scored in the left-hand corner. Fish missed the conversion but the home side were 15-8 ahead after 35 minutes.
The remaining 5 minutes before half-time was all-Cardiff – the home side were throwing the kitchen sink at Ponty determined to run down the tunnel even further ahead on the scoreboard but some resolute Ponty defence ensured there were just 7 points between the two teams at the break.
HALF TIME – Cardiff 15-8 Pontypridd
Ponty got the second half underway. Cardiff gathered and kicked the ball straight back to Ponty and Burnell and from open play he chipped the ball over the top, gathered his kick and presented it when hauled down. Ponty went left and Lloyd Rowlands received the ball out on the left wing, he avoided a couple of oncoming Cardiff tacklers and finished superbly in the corner. Burnell’s conversion unluckily hit the post again, but Ponty had reduced the deficit to 15-13.
Dan Fish missed a penalty in the 45th minute but he didn’t have to wait long for redemption when he slotted one a few minutes later after Cardiff won the penalty at the scrum.
50 minutes had now passed, Cardiff were attacking and the ball stood up deep in Ponty’s 22 following a very good kick through from the home side. Fullback Scrivens did very well to gather and show strength to secure the ball until Ponty support arrived. Harries box-kicked the ball clear but had no angle to work with and only made limited ground. Scrivens was injured preventing the try and was replaced by young winger Sam Hayman.
It was only temporary respite for Ponty as Cardiff got the try in the 52nd minute through Alun Rees. Fish was successful with the conversion and Cardiff now found themselves with breathing space on the scoreboard at 25-13.
Cardiff earned the 4-try bonus point with nearly an hour played – from a lineout Cardiff spread the ball along the backline and Dewi Cross came in off his wing, hit a good attacking line and a huge hole opened up in Ponty’s midfield and he cantered in from 40 metres. Fish’s conversion went over and the home team consolidated their lead.
Ponty were still attacking, determined to come away from the match with something to show for their efforts. A mixture of errors at key moments and some strong Cardiff defence meant that the away side were unable to add to their score of 13 points. Ponty had some good field position on the 65 minute mark but Ceri Morris spilled possession taking a crash ball in Cardiff territory.
In the 68th minute Cardiff flanker Alex Mann was yellow carded for a late hit on Ben Burnell – the outside half the recipient of a few late tackles throughout the second half but all going unpunished until Mann was given 10 minutes in the cooler.
70 minutes gone and Ponty should have had their 3rd try. They worked a 4-on-1 overlap deep in the Cardiff 22 but the home side infringed at the ruck to prevent the quick ball and were penalised, but not shown another yellow for a professional foul.
In the closing minutes both teams continued to attack but it was the home side that had the final say and put the icing on the win – Dewi Cross got his second try, converted by Harrison James for a 39-13 win in the capital.
FULL TIME – Cardiff 39-13 Pontypridd (26/12/2022)
15. Joseph Scrivens (Sam Hayman). 14. Alex Lloyd. 13. Tommy Morgan. 12. Ceri Morris (Jordan Howells). 11. Lloyd Rowlands. 10. Ben Burnell. 9. Rory Harries (Joel Raikes).
1. Ben Stephens (Morgan Bosanko). 2. Rob Jones (Nathan Huish). 3. Tom Harper (Garyn Daniel). 4. Kristian Parker (c). 5. Chris Dicomidis (Mitch Barnard). 6. Cai James (Aled Ward). 7. Sion Parry. 8. Joe Miles.
Subs: 16. Nathan Huish. 17. Morgan Bosanko. 18. Garyn Daniel. 19. Mitch Barnard. 20. Aled Ward. 21. Joel Raikes. 22. Jordan Howells. 23. Sam Hayman.
Tries: Rob Jones, Lloyd Rowlands
15. Cameron Winnett. 14. James Beal. 13. Joe Goodchild. 12. Aaron Pinches. 11. Dewi Cross. 10. Dan Fish. 9. Tom Habberfield.
1. Rhys Barratt. 2. Alun Rees. 3. Scott Andrews. 4. Sean Moore. 5. Rhys Anstey. 6. Alex Mann. 7. Nathan Hudd. 8. Morgan Allen (c).
Subs: 16. Brynley Toms. 17. Adam Williams. 18. Freddie Barnes. 19. Harry Beddall. 20. Mackenzie Martin. 21. Ethan Lloyd. 22. Will Keep. 23. Harrison James.
Tries: Barratt, Pinches, Alun Rees, Cross x 2
Conversions: Fish x 3, Harrison James
Penalties: Fish x 2
Yellow Card: Alex Mann
Referee: Ben Breakspear
Assistant referees: 1 – Jason Bessant, 2 – Dai Cambourne
WRU Man of the Match: Ben Burnell