Ben Thomas is determined to break into the Cardiff Blues first team squad next season after inspiring Cardiff RFC to their first National Cup title in 22 years.
The versatile back was one of the star performers and claimed the crucial try as the Blue and Blacks triumphed 25-19 in a regional derby against Merthyr.
Having seen their title hopes slip away as Merthyr tightened their grip at the top of the Principality Premiership, Cardiff were determined to claim some silverware from a hugely promising season.
They did not get off to the best of starts as the Ironmen raced into a commanding early thanks to a Kyle Evans brace. Cardiff battled back through Tom Daly and a stunning team effort finished by Edd Howley, in which Thomas had a substantial hand.
And with the encounter poised in the balance, the Cardiff University student pounced as he eased outside Teri Morgan-Gee to claim the crucial try.
Reflecting on the Blue and Blacks triumph, the Cardiff Blues academy starlet, said: “It was class. We have been building for a while but have not had the best of performances in the league recently, so it was great that everything clicked on the day. We were disappointed that we hadn’t taken our opportunities in the league, so the cup was a big goal.
“We didn’t have the best of starts but it’s become a bit of an unwanted habit that we’re slow out of the blocks so there was no need to panic. We knew we could bounce back.
“We knew it was going to be a battle for the full 80 minutes and that Merthyr would throw everything at us but some big game moments – like Edd Howley keeping a Merthyr penalty kick in play – went our way. That was a big momentum shift in our favour.”
Commenting on his try, Thomas continued: “Luckily it wasn’t the best of passes and I had to push onto the ball, we had a few numbers out wide and a small gap opened in their defence.”
Thomas has been a mainstay for the Blues and Blacks this season, making 19 appearances and providing the ability to cover 10, 12 and 13. He also featured throughout the Cardiff Blues A team programme, including the Arms Park triumph over Uruguay.
Now he has set his sights on stepping up from the academy and into the Blues first team squad.
He added: “It’s been really good at Cardiff this year, especially since Gethin Jenkins and TRT (Thomas Rhys Thomas) have come onto the coaching staff. They are obviously two of the coaches within the Blues academy, so it means it’s all a bit more joined up and for me it’s almost been like a continuation of the A league programme.
“Next season I want to push to get into that first team squad and put my hand up as much as I can in that environment.”
Thomas’ academy teammates Keiron Assiratti and Max Llewellyn also starred for Cardiff, as did experienced second-row James Down, while Tom James came off the bench for the Ironmen.