Cardiff Press Officer Alan Evans talking after the game explained how a much greater input from the Blues regional set-up had been instrumental in improving the Cardiff Club side's fortunes in the Premiership. “They put Justin Burnell the Blues Academy Coach in place as director of Coaching and he has brought in around eight or nine academy and development players who have made a significant contribution to our progress”.
With other Blues players being allocated to their other feeder clubs, Glamorgan Wanderers and Pontypridd, the region has bought fully into the player development programme. Llandovery in contrast, firmly rooted at the bottom of the table and looking prime candidates for relegation to Division 1 to join the other former Scarlets feeder club Carmarthen Quins relegated last season, have had minimal player support from the region. In the event of their relegation this would leave only the Stradey based Llanelli Club side as the only premiership side in the Scarlets region. This would surely not be an acceptable situation for player development in the West.
Justin Burnell himself writes in the Cardiff programme that last Monday he was able to bring in all the full time players and they spent the morning studying the DVD of their previous match. They then spent the rest of the week working on fitness and skills. As vital and invaluable as this is as a development tool it allows the Premiership Clubs based on the Regional teams a distinct advantage over other Premiership Clubs and one can only but feel that unless there is some kind of rationalisation and a more equal distribution of Academy and Development players we will end up with a Premiership League of Llanelli, Neath/Swansea, Cardiff and Newport playing interminably against each other, maybe supplemented by one or two other Clubs adopted by “sugar-daddies”.
This was a game where Llandovery travelled with a degree of optimism. In the fixture at Church Bank Blues winger Tom James, with two tries, had been the difference between the sides and with his absence on Regional duty the side felt they could bring an end to the run of defeats. Unfortunately the Drovers' finishing, despite several promising breaks, let them down and at crucial times the defence was also found wanting. In contrast the Cardiff side were clinical in their finishing and always looked to be capable of adding to the six tries they scored.
In most other phases of play the Drovers were a good match for their city opponents and recorded 7 scores themselves. Unfortunately these were all penalties kicked by outside half Jon Elrick in a faultless display of goal kicking. His opposite number, former Quins player Craig Evans, was also in fine goal kicking form and converted all six tries scored by his side.
The game started explosively when Llandovery skipper Arwel Davies was yellow carded after 2 minutes for coming offside at a ruck in the 22. In the time he was off the pitch No. 8 Chris Jones and prop Rhys Gill both crossed for tries to establish a 14-0 lead. After Jon Elrick had kicked his first penalty goal wing Rhys Gill cut back inside following a flowing three quarter move to score the third try under the posts. Cardiff centre Dafydd Hewitt received the second yellow of the day and Jon Elrick punished Cardiff indiscipline to kick three more penalties to bring the half time score to 21-12.
Within a minute of the re-start Cardiff were down to 14 men when lock Dafydd Rosser was red carded for stamping on the head of a Llandovery player trapped at the bottom of the ruck. Continuous ill-discipline by the home side saw Elrick reduce the points difference to 3 as he kicked 2 more penalties. At 21-18 it really looked as if the Drovers could pull off the surprise of the day.
However it was not to be as they failed to take their chances and a combination of poor tackling and a lineout developing problems allowed Cardiff in for another 3 tries through Nick Gill, a second for Chris Jones and one for replacement prop Scott Roberts. All the Drovers could muster as a response was a seventh Elrick penalty.
The Drovers now face a considerable battle if they are to achieve their goal of retaining premiership status although the team and coaches still feel that this is within their grasp and they are continuing week by week with a positive attitude. It certainly won't get any easier as they face high flying Newport, who beat them earlier in the season, in their next fixture at Church Bank.