The hosts were made to pay for too many unforced errors, indiscretions, wrong options, inferior tactical awareness and being schooled at the breakdowns in what was their first defeat at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in six matches since their 5-21 reverse to Edinburgh in Durban in March.
Rustiness and being bereft of their international stars may be seen as mitigating factors, but the Cell C Sharks can’t use it as excuses for their defeat, and they will need to do some introspection before they host the Ospreys on Friday.
Looking at the score board after the first half, combined with the pelting rain, you’d be forgiven to think Cardiff were playing at the Arms Park in the Welsh capital, as they made the most of the conditions with clever use of the boot.
The Cell C Sharks hardly had any meaningful possession in the half and made way too many unforced errors, two of which directly led to 14 points for the visitors.
Playing with 14 men with Josh Turnbull (flanker) in the bin for head contact, the Welsh men were leading by 6-0 and kept the hosts pinned in their half with good tactical kicking.
When Marnus Potgieter was judged to have deliberately knock the ball over the dead ball line with Thomas Young (flanker) chasing down his own hack-ahead, Cardiff were awarded a penalty try with the Cell C Sharks wing getting yellow carded for his trouble. It stretched the visitors’ lead to 13-0, but minutes later it was 16-0 when Jarrod Evans (flyhalf) kicked his third penalty goal.
The KwaZulu-Natalians tried, but kept making mistakes, and at the end of the first half a knock-on from Anthony Volmink (fullback) close to his tryline saw the visitors swoop and Young get his try – converted by Evans from the sideline – as Cardiff took control after the first 40 minutes.
The rain cleared in the second half, but not the Cell C Sharks woes, as the visitors kept playing the more controlled and seemingly planned rugby, and 10 minutes after the break, Young got his second from a superb driving maul to put Cardiff 28 points clear.
Volmink raced clear a few minutes later, but the referee spotted crossing earlier in the move, something that clearly illustrated the Cell C Sharks’ troubles on the night.
Ben Thomas (fullback) got Cardiff’s fourth try five minutes later after which the contest fizzled away although the hosts upped their play, but in the end they simply couldn’t find a way through the visitors’ defence despite coming close on a few occasions.
Cell C Sharks 0
Cardiff 35 (23) – Tries: Penalty try, Thomas Young (2), Ben Thomas. Conversions: Jarrod Evans (2). Penalty goals: Evans (3).