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Cardiff snatch late draw against Chiefs

12 Nov 2010
Cardiff snatch late draw against Chiefs

Eighteen-year-old replacement Joseph Griffin knocked over a last-gasp penalty to earn a young Cardiff Blues side a deserved 23-23 draw against Exeter Chiefs in their LV= Cup tie at a sodden Cardiff City Stadium.

Tries from hooker Simon Alcott and wing Nic Sestaret, plus three penalties and two conversions from Ryan Davis, gave Exeter a 23-12 half-time lead, with youngster Gareth Davies replying with four penalties for the Blues.

But the home side altered their approach after the break, keeping the ball in hand and running in a try through full-back Dan Fish, with fly-half Davies adding another penalty before Griffin held his nerve at the death to cap a brave comeback.

Cardiff had Wales squad member Scott Andrews in their front row following the withdrawal of John Yapp. Wing Tom James returned from injury while Luke Hamilton and Josh Navidi started in the back row. Exeter made 13 changes from the side which beat Wasps last week, Andy Miller and Sestaret the only men to retain their places, while former Highlanders' centre Jason Shoemark made his first start.

Cardiff fly-half Davies kicked two penalties to one from opposite number Davis in the early going, but it was Exeter who claimed the opening try in the 17th minute. They produced a neat, short line-out that saw scrum-half Haydn Thomas feed hooker Alcott, who raced away down the touchline to score a try converted by Davis.

And Exeter's lead was soon extended to 13-6 by Davis' second penalty as the Chiefs pack began to put the squeeze on an inexperienced Cardiff eight, particularly at the breakdown. Davis missed with a long-range penalty attempt and his opposite number trimmed the lead to four points with his third penalty just shy of the half-hour mark.

But that proved to be only a brief respite for the Blues as some nice build-up work from the Chiefs laid the foundations for Davis to chip to the right-hand corner and allow Sestaret to touch down after juggling the ball as he gathered. Davis added the testing touchline conversion to make it 20-9 to the visitors.

Davies' fourth penalty kept Cardiff in the contest before the game was delayed for several minutes when Alcott was left face down on the floor after a scrum on the Cardiff 10-metre line, but thankfully he was able to walk off the field after treatment, with Chris Whitehead replacing him.

More Blues ill-discipline then allowed Davis to extend the visitors' lead to 23-12 at the break as his penalty went over with the help of a post.

Having been second best for much of the opening 40 minutes, the Blues opened the second half with their best passage of attacking play. Having gone through numerous phases, fly-half Davies made a lovely break and the ball was shipped wide for Richard Mustoe to put Fish in at the corner, although Davies could not add the extras.

Davies then scuffed a long-distance penalty but the hosts were visibly growing in confidence. An excellent counter-attack from James was stopped by some good defensive work by Luke Arscott as the home side continued to put the pressure on.

Cardiff were opting to keep ball in hand in the testing conditions and a slashing break by captain Dafydd Hewitt set up a situation that saw replacement Owen Williams hauled out just short of the line.

The home side's best chance of a score came when they had a five-metre scrum on the Chiefs line, but it rolled through 90 degrees and the visitors cleared. But Davies cut the lead to three with a late penalty before a high tackle allowed Griffin to claim a deserved share of the spoils for the hosts.

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