Cardiff Blues finally gave themselves some breathing space from basement side Connacht with a 20-12 victory over the Ospreys.
Cardiff Blues finally gave themselves some breathing space from basement side Connacht with a fine 20-12 derby victory over the Ospreys on Saturday.
Tries in the opening attacks of each half saw the Blues pick up the points in a thrilling Welsh clash in front of 16,341, the highest crowd yet for a rugby match at the new Cardiff City Stadium.
With flanker Martyn Williams outstanding on his first appearance after injuring a shoulder on the Lions tour, the Blues fully deserved their triumph but needed stern defence to withstand a late surge as the Ospreys brought on their big guns.
The hosts could not have asked for a better start.
Australian fly-half Sam Norton-Knight, whose introduction in the Blues' line-up has not been smooth, showed what he is capable of with an inch-perfect kick for left-wing Tom James to outpace the Ospreys' cover, tap the ball forward and win the race to touch down. Ben Blair converted.
The Ospreys number 10 Dan Biggar had an opportunity to cut the deficit when the lively Shane Williams, captaining the region for the first time, was taken out as he chased a kick ahead, but the youngster was off-target with the penalty.
The Blues were doing well at the breakdown, thanks largely to the tireless Williams, but with both fly-halves relying too much on high kicks into the windy night, neither side was able to find a way through.
The only other score of the half came when Blair punished a high tackle on Jamie Roberts, though Blues' wing Leigh Halfpenny hit a post with an injury-time penalty from his own half.
That man Williams was key to the Blues repeating their explosive opening after the restart.
The red-headed predator found a minute gap on the left touchline and sped past two tacklers to send in scrum-half Gareth Cooper, whose overall performance will have boosted his chances of facing the All Blacks in a fortnight's time.
The Ospreys, who brought on Wales skipper Ryan Jones at half-time, made a further switch, moving Shane Williams to the scrum-half position in which he started his career.
It paid immediate dividends, a little dart by the stand-in number nine sparking a move which ended with Ireland's Tommy Bowe crossing by the flag.
With James Hook also called into action to add his flair in midfield, the Ospreys suddenly looked a lot more creative, and hooker Richard Hibbard stretched over the line only to be called back for crossing.
But the Blues' defence held out and they made the game safe when Norton-Knight dropped a neat goal.
There was just time for New Zealander Jerry Collins to crash over in the corner, Biggar converting, but it was not enough to earn the Ospreys a losing bonus point.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: James, Cooper
Con: Blair 2
Tries: Bowe, Collins
Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Scott Morgan, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Gary Powell, 18 Paul Tito, 19 Ben White, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Richard Mustoe.
Ospreys: 15 Barry Davies, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Sonny Parker, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Shane Williams (c), 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhodri Wells, 8 Tom Smith, 7 Steve Tandy, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Alun-wyn Jones, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Paul James, 18 Jonathan Thomas, 19 Filo Tiatia, 20 Ryan Jones, 21 James Hook, 22 Nikki Walker.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Phil Fear (Wales), David Williams (Wales)
Television match official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)