Hallam Amos scored a try and created another as Cardiff Blues kicked-off their European Challenge Cup campaign with a scrappy victory over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
The Blues took an early lead in the north after Amos finished after Sam Moore and Matthew Morgan linked but the hosts hit back with two soft but well finished tries of their own.
That gave Newcastle a 17-13 lead at the break but the Blues dominated much of the second half with the kicking of Jarrod Evans and a Tomos Williams try, created by Amos, giving them a nine-point advantage.
Joel Hodgson, who enjoyed an impressive evening, set up a tense finale with a penalty with five minutes to go but Cardiff Blues responded with aplomb as a rampaging driving line out forced a penalty try and put the victory beyond doubt.
The capital city outfit, who had been boosted by the return of six Wales internationals, were forced into a late reshuffle after Owen Lane and Iestyn Harris failed late fitness tests and Aled Summerhill was also forced to withdraw.
That saw Matthew Morgan pull on the number 15 jersey with Hallam Amos and Harri Millard starting on the wings. Travelling reserves Ethan Lewis, Mason Grady and Max Llewellyn all come onto the bench.
Newcastle kicked off but it was the Blues who had the first opportunity to score after a humongous touch finder from Jarrod Evans. Cory Hill took the ball in the middle of the line out but the hosts held strong first at the maul and then through more than 15 phases of possession.
Cardiff came back from the scrum and asserted some early dominance at the set-piece as they powered through the Falcons to earn a penalty, which was nudged to the corner.
Again they went through multiple phases, with Dean Richards’ men clinging on and the Blues eventually settling for a simple Evans penalty.
Joel Hodgson quickly responded for his side but Cardiff Blues continued to enjoy plenty of possession and they were rewarded with a breakthrough on 16 minutes.
In slippery conditions it was a loose pass, which saw Newcastle shoot up but Sam Moore grasp possession, that created the opening. He cantered into space before releasing Morgan, who unselfishly drew Alex Tait to give Amos an easy finish in the corner.
Evans converted expertly from the touchline to give his side a 10-3 lead but all the hard work was almost instantly undone when Jamie Blamire burst clear from an unthreatening position.
He displayed pace that defied a hooker and dummied away from Morgan before fly-half Evans saved the day we a sensational covering tackle. However, the damage was done and George Wacokecoke soon stretched over. Hodgson levelled the scores.
Mulvihill’s charges regathered their composure, following the try against the run of play, and Evans nudged them back into the lead, however the tumultuous nature of the game soon continued.
This time it was Newcastle who built pressure after Josh Turnbull was penalised at the breakdown. The hosts kicked to the corner and while Cardiff decimated their maul and stole possession they were unable to exit.
When the Blues secured a scrum penalty to clear their lines, following a sustained period of pressure, it appeared as though they would survive unscathed but Richards’ men came roaring back.
Following a quick Cardiff Blues line out and clearance, the hosts struck with a devastating counter-attack with a fine offloading game putting Sam Stuart away. Hodgson converted to give his side a 17-13 lead, which they took into half-time.
Despite a couple of shaky moments, Cardiff Blues made a good start to the second-half with Hallam Amos and Harri Millard making good yards and Garyn Smith carrying hard.
Evans cut the deficit to one less than five minutes into the half and with the game in the balance and both teams battling for the ascendancy a kicking battle ensued and it was from a high ball that the Blues regained the lead.
Amos hoisted an up and under high into the Tyneside sky and regathered above his head with a spot of fortune. Three players surrounded him as he was hit from behind but we managed to slip a sublime offload to the onrushing Williams.
It was a sublime piece of skill and Williams needed no second invite as he raced under the sticks. Evans added the extras and soon slotted another penalty to make it 26-17 to Wales’ Capital Region.
Hodgson landed a late, long-range penalty to put Newcastle in striking distance and set up a tense finale.
Newcastle were looking for territory as they seemed a dramatic winner, but after the ball was passed back into the 22, their kick out on the full gave Cardiff Blues an opportunity to put the result beyond doubt.
Captain Hill won the set piece and marshalled his pack, who were driving at pace towards the line. With a try seemingly inevitable, England international Mark Wilson was penalised for taking the maul down, resulting in a penalty try and a yellow card.