THE publicity balloon went up, the crowds turned out, yet the home team went down to their first league defeat for four months.
None the less, these are heady and very welcome days at Ebbw Vale, a team that has finally been able to fly the rugby flag for that almost forgotten part of Wales, Gwent. Having beaten Llanelli, Neath, Bridgend and the reigning champions, Pontypridd, in their last four Premier Division outings, this was, against Cardiff, the big one.
Add to that the fact that these two sides will meet again in the Swalec Cup at the same venue in two weeks' time, then the importance, both points wise and psychologically, of this game was clear for all to see.
February temperatures at Eugene Cross Park are normally only just above zero, yet the digital thermometer displayed a high of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. No wonder the crowd were in almost carnival mood, especially as the final two or three hundred of them had to be let in free 12 minutes after kick- off, such was the demand to watch this game.
Kingsley Jones' Ebbw Vale side made the temperature rise even more on the field as they conjured up a brilliant try 15 minutes into the game for their left wing Alun Harries. The scrum-half, David Llewellyn, fed his wing 50 metres out and his speed and angle of running took him past two men to score.
First blood to Vale, although by half-time Lee Jarvis had put his boot into the proceedings with two penalties and a try of his own to give Cardiff a slender lead. Cardiff took advantage of their superiority at the scrum thanks to their pair of Wales props, Andrew Lewis and David Young, who caused all sorts of bother to their opposite numbers, which must augur well for Wales' trip to Twickenham on Saturday.
Yet eight minutes into the second half Byron Hayward's second penalty had tied the scores and Cardiff were once again up against it. Their response was to increase the tempo of their game and conjure up 15 points in a 10-minute purple patch to clinch victory.
Craig Morgan and Leigh Davies ran in tries and that man Jarvis, who ended with 18 points, converted one and landed another penalty. The new Wales skipper, Rob Howley, then darted a metre to score, but a penalty try three minutes from the end robbed Cardiff of a bonus point.
Ebbw Vale: S Taumalolo; A Harries, J Hawker, J Funnell, L Woodard; B Hayward, D Llewellyn; A Phillips, L Phillips (S Jones, 67), I Thomas, L Banks (C Billen, 49), K Faletau, R Collins, K Jones (capt), M Jones (P Pook, 72).
Cardiff: J Thomas; C Morgan, L Davies, G Thomas, N Walker; L Jarvis, R Howley; A Lewis, J Humphreys (capt; P Young, 75-76), D Young (L Mustoe, 45), T Rees (D Jones, 47), J Tait, G Kacala (O Williams, 72), J Ringer, S Williams.
Referee: H Lewis (Bridgend).Reuse content