By: Paul Hopkins
A spirited performance by the All Whites wasn’t quite enough as they fell to a 12-22 defeat at home to last season’s Premiership runners-up Cardiff.
It was a challenging start for the home side when fly half Joe Thomas’ kick off was taken dead by the wind and Cardiff were awarded a scrum on halfway, but an infringement spared his blushes.
Swansea almost turned it into their advantage when Joe Thomas found touch with the penalty and centre Marcus Brown made a dangerous break, but he lost possession forward.
Lock Lewis Jones took a lineout inside the 22 with number eight Morgan Morse making good yards, before the visitors secured a turnover.
Full back Matty Young fielded a high Gareth J Rees kick, but sensing he was running out of options, centre Harrison James chipped through to the Swansea 22, but the ball was kicked back with interest to give the home side decent territory.
Cardiff opened the scoring with a magnificent try when James fed winger Dewi Cross, who sprinted down the wing, held off a tackle, and found the supporting centre Luke Pollock, who showed great skill to send scrum half Tom Habberfield over for a try. Fly half Arwel Robson converted.
Gareth J Rees took his eye off the ball and dropped a high kick midway between his own 22 and half way, gifting Cardiff an unexpected attacking scrum. The visitors showed their strength at the set piece and earned a penalty, which Robson kicked to the corner.
Lock Ethan Phillips took the lineout and a clever rolling maul saw hooker Joey Tomlinson dive over for a try. Robson missed the conversion.
The impressive number eight Mackenzie Martin bounced out of a tackle from the restart as he charged forward. Robson then fed winger Joe Goodchild on the flank, but he lost the ball forward over the 22.
It was almost a third Cardiff try when Habberfield and Young linked up, but a slippery ball and last gasp Swansea defensive effort earned the home side a reprieve.
The home side almost replied with a Gareth O Rees effort following a superb move by the backs, but the centre’s chip through was taken back over the try line by Cardiff, giving Swansea an attacking scrum five, but despite attempting a few tricks, Robson called a mark.
Swansea came again and a long looping pass out wide was taken by winger Morgan Rees, who was well wrapped up. Flanker Callum Bowden tried to squeeze over, but a handling error by Brown brought an end to the move.
Lock Matt Dodd spun out of a tackle as the home pack drove towards the line, but support was too slow to arrive when Morse was tackled inches short of the line, giving the visitors a penalty.
A superb counterattack by Cardiff saw Cross sprint down the wing, but he was closed down and instead chipped ahead for Robson to chase, but the Whites managed to get back to defend.
Gareth O Rees scavenged a loose ball on the ground and it looked like Morgan Rees would burst through for a try, but he lost possession forward.
Joe Thomas made a mini break and fed Gareth O Rees, who made good yards but was tackled just shy of the 22, with a familiar tale of the Whites’ support too slow to arrive.
Dodd failed to take a lineout and Robson spotted Goodchild on the wing, but he was unable to take the pass. Instead, the home side took a quick lineout and booted play 60 metres upfield, with Goodchild tracking back to clear.
Flanker Joe Greaves took a lineout for the home side and Brown made a half break, but forced a pass to Lewis Jones, who dropped the ball eight metres from the line.
Half-time:- Swansea 0-12 Cardiff
Martin charged over half way, but a chip ahead was dealt with by winger Matthew Jenkins, who found touch inside the Cardiff.
A low pass was taken by Greaves, but it put the flanker on the backfoot and he gave away a penalty for holding on after the tackle. Robson kicked the three pointer.
Swansea were soon back on the attack though and a well-weighted crossfield kick by Joe Thomas was almost taken by Jenkins, but he lost the ball forward.
The Cardiff pack were penalised for offside and Joe Thomas chipped up to the 22, but any chance of an attack came to nothing as the visitors were awarded a penalty at the set piece and cleared up to half way.
Robson found touch deep inside the Swansea 22 with a penalty and the home side brought down the resulting rolling maul to give away another penalty. The visitors threw the kitchen sink at their opponents but were unable to breach their defence, although the Whites did give away another penalty.
Cardiff took a quick tap penalty and another rolling maul saw Tomlinson crash over for a try. Robson converted.
Replacement Owen Thomas took a quick tap penalty and made 30 metres by charging through five tackles, before substitute scrum half Cameron Jones picked up to score the home side’s first try. Full back Brandon Wood converted.
The home side grabbed a second try in scintillating fashion when Jenkins sprinted down the wing, took out a tackler, and fed Morse, who juggled the pass and raced home to score. Wood missed the conversion.
Young dropped a high ball but Cameron Jones wasted the opportunity by kicking possession away. Then a superb touch finder by Robson took the Blue and Blacks back up to the Swansea 22 and Lewis Jones failed to take the lineout, allowing Cardiff to continue in their quest for a bonus point, but a poor kick was marked by Wood.
In the dying moments Robson kicked to the corner with a penalty after the home pack collapsed a scrum inside their own 22, but a handling error brought an end to the move and an end to both side’s hopes of a bonus point.
Full-time:- Swansea 12-22 Cardiff
Tries:- Cameron Jones (63), Morgan Morse (68)
Cons:- Brandon Wood (64)
Tries:- Tom Habberfield (11), Joey Tomlinson (16, 59)
Cons:- Arwel Robson (12, 60)
Pens:- Arwel Robson (45)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Light rain showers, 14C
Referee:- Rhys Jones
Man of the match:- Mackenzie Martin
15 Brandon Wood
14 Matthew Jenkins
13 Gareth O Rees
12 Marcus Brown (rep: Ieuan Bissell 41)
11 Morgan Rees
10 Joe Thomas
9 Gareth J Rees (rep: Cameron Jones 56)
1 Freddie Chapman (rep: Daf Davies 52)
2 Jamie Cox (rep: Owen Thomas 52)
3 Ed Thompson (rep: Kian Hire 52)
4 Lewis Jones
5 Matt Dodd (rep: Lloyd Ashley 48)
6 Joe Greaves (rep: Lewis Marsh 50)
7 Callum Bowden © (rep: Sam Pailor 61)
8 Morgan Morse
16 Owen Thomas
17 Daf Davies
18 Kian Hire
19 Lloyd Ashley
20 Sam Pailor
21 Lewis Marsh
22 Cameron Jones
23 Ieuan Bissell
15 Matty Young
14 Joe Goodchild (rep: Kodie Stone 64)
13 Luke Pollock
12 Harrison James
11 Dewi Cross
10 Arwel Robson
9 Tom Habberfield (rep: Joe Williams 69)
1 Ollie Evans (rep: Brynley Toms 50)
2 Joey Tomlinson © (rep: Alun Rees 71)
3 Christian Brooke (rep: Jack Wiggins 64)
4 Sean Moore
5 Ethan Phillips (rep: Morgan Allen 50)
6 Craig Hudd
7 Lucas de la Rua
8 Mackenzie Martin (rep: Ioan Pascoe 60)
16 Alun Rees
17 Brynley Toms
18 Jack Wiggins
19 Morgan Allen
20 Ioan Pascoe
21 Joe Williams
22 Jacob Lloyd
23 Kodie Stone