Monthly Archives: January 2018

Lyon Olympique Universitaire vs Cardiff Blues

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Head to Head

This will be only the second fixture between Lyon and Cardiff following the fixture in October last year when the home team ran out 29-19 winners. At home, Lyon are a formidable outfit, having lost only twice at home this season, narrowly to La Rochelle and Toulouse. They sit mid-table in the Top14, having finished 10th last season following promotion from ProD2 where they spent a year during the 2015-16 season.

The Coaches

Pierre Mignoni played for seven clubs during a long career in French rugby, eventually ending his playing days with Toulon in 2011. He spent four years at the club post-retirement as a coach, before moving to Lyon in the summer of 2015. Since then, he’s brought stability to the club and amassed a very impressive 76% home win ratio. At Cardiff, Danny Wilson is coming to the end of his time with the club, and will want to improve on his overall 48% win rate. In a tight group, his team has only scored 9 tries (and only conceded 8). No other team in this season’s competition has scored fewer tries.

The Referee

33 year old Matt Carley will referee Cardiff for the third time in his career this weekend, but this will be the first time he will do so in a major fixture. 62% of games in the English premiership this season have resulted in home wins, and that’s also Carley’s overall record of home wins. This will be his 10th game in the Challenge Cup. He’s averaging just under 18.5 penalties per game in the Premiership, pretty much the same as last season. But when it comes to carding teams, Carley has been far from shy this season. So far, he’s doing so at a rate of 1.7 cards per game – with more than twice as many being awarded against the away team.

Attack

Cardiff have yet to score four tries in the Pro14 this season. Twelve times last season they scored three tries or more, and only once went on to score a bonus point in three games. Against Toulouse, Cardiff carried the ball 479m – their third highest carry figure this season. Meanwhile, in the Top14, Lyon average around 320m per game. With ball in hand, Cardiff play more of a kicking game than their French opponents – Lyon averaging 19 kicks a game whereas Cardiff’s figure is 20% higher. There is a fairly consistent difference over the last two seasons.

Set Piece

Lyon’s scrum is one of the more impressive in the Pro14 with a 92% success rate. However, in the Challenge Cup, they’ve been less successful, registering only 88%. Cardiff – meanwhile – have lost only one scrum on their put in so far in the competition. Lyon’s lineout success rate of 91% ranks above their visitors who have only managed an 85% in success rate in the competition. In the reverse fixture in Wales, Lyon returned a 100% success rate from 8 feeds to the scrum and the visitors inflicted Cardiff’s only loss against the head in this season’s competition.

Defence

Cardiff have the strongest home record of any of the teams featuring in the Challenge Cup this season – having won over 91% of their home games with their last defeat being in November 2015 when they lost to Harlequins.  Lyon also have an impressive home record, having only lost twice at home in the competition with their last defeat being to the Ospreys in October 2016. In Lyon’s last four games, the team has recorded a tackle success rate of only around 80%, so they’ll want to improve on this for the visit of Cardiff. As for the Welshmen, their tackle stats reflect the up-and-down nature of their performances. Overall, Cardiff have a completion rate of 89% in the Challenge Cup this season, whereas Lyon’s 85% sees them in the lower half of the table. Missing 28 and 29 tackles in away games against Toulouse and Sale lie behind this percentage. Against Connacht in September, Cardiff completed 233 tackles in the game – the most by any team in any fixture in European pro-rugby this season. They’ll need to replicate that commitment if they want to secure a victory in Lyon.

Discipline

Only Treviso and Munster have received more cards that Cardiff in the Pro14, and Cardiff’s discipline has deteriorated over the last two seasons. No team has been penalised more than Cardiff in the Pro14 with the team having conceded 138 penalties. Last season, Lyon’s discipline was amongst the best in France in the Top14, though this year, they remain mid-table. Interestingly enough, Lyon can match Cardiff as the most penalised team in France in the Top14, so it would seem that Carley is set for a busy evening.

Prediction

Last season, the visitors lost eleven games away from home – already this season, the figure stands at seven. However, in the Challenge Cup, Cardiff have won three out of their last five away games, with the failure to perform in Salford a real blight. When it comes to France, Cardiff have the best record of away wins amongst the professional clubs in Wales, but victories still remain a rarity. As with many French teams, they present a different proposition when playing at home. This game represents a dead rubber for both sides, but it will be Lyon’s desire to maintain their home record that will see them come away as victors in a closely fought game, 22-21.

Cardiff Blues vs Stade Toulousain

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Head to Head

No game between Cardiff and Toulouse can take place without evoking memories of that first European Cup final back in 1996. A bitterly cold day when most other fixtures were called off, the game was played at The National Stadium as it then was. Let’s not dwell too long on the result. Since then, Toulouse have enjoyed less than fruitful visits to the Welsh capital, having lost all three subsequent games. In October 2000, another barnstorming performance by Dan Baugh led the team to a 26-17 victory. Nine years later, it was Cardiff again running out victors in a European Cup Quarter Final. And then in the following season, Cardiff chalked up a victory at the soccer stadium in Leckwith. So all four previous games played between these two teams in Wales were actually played on four different pitches.

The Coaches

For a remarkable 22 years between 1993 and 2015 Guy Novès was the head coach at Toulouse. From there, he went on to coach the national team and his place was taken by Ugo Mola. Whilst Mola has build a formidable fortress in Toulouse, his team’s away form is less than impressive, having only won eight times in over two years. Away wins are a rarity in the geographically challenged Top 14, though interestingly enough, Toulouse have one of the better away records in the competition. Danny Wilson’s tenure at Cardiff is coming to a close and he probably has less than a dozen games left as coach. Whilst progress has been made under his tutelage, his team so far remain nearly men – close, but not close enough. His 47% win ratio is less than impressive and already this season his team has conceded 60 tries – in 7 out of the previous 14 season, more than for an entire season.

The Referee

29 year old Ian Tempest is one of the youngest referees in the Aviva Premiership. He’s refereed Cardiff three times, including a disappointingly weak performance in Montpellier two seasons ago. In 11 games this season, Tempest has brandished two reds and six yellow cards. Although he’s yet to take charge of 40 Aviva Premiership fixtures and so does not appear on our top 10 list, a 72.5% home win ratio would make him one of the biggest homers in the league.

Attack

Toulouse are a mid-table team in the Top14 this season. They are averaging 2.3 tries scored per game against Cardiff’s 2.72. The visitors offloading game is one of the best in the Top 14, averaging 13 per fixture. This is in start contrast to Cardiff’s figure of 8 per game. This trend is in-keeping with the differences between the two leagues.

Set Piece

At the scrum, both teams boast 90% plus success rates , though Toulouse’s 82% success in the lineout is less than impressive.  At the corresponding fixture in Toulouse, the home team lost a number of strikes against the head, registering a 65% success ratio.

Defence

A disastrous 2016-17 season saw Cardiff conceded almost 3.5 tries per game on average. Although the defence has improved a little this season, they are still conceding more than three a game. There’s been a steady deterioration in Toulouse’s defence in recent years, but they are only conceding 2.11 tries per game this season. Toulouse have a steady – if unspectacular – tackle record, as do Cardiff. Last season – no doubt still suffering from the transition from Novès to Mola, they suffered one of their worst defensive performances in recent years, conceding over 550 points in the Top 14.

Discipline

If supporters are sometimes frustrated by the way yellow cards distort games in the Pro14, we should sympathise with followers of the Top14. On average, one card per game is issued by officials in the Pro14 – a total of 91 so far this season. In the Top 14, 1.6 cards – on average – area awarded per game. Toulouse – like Cardiff – area serial offenders, so it’ll be surprising if Mr Tempest does not send someone from the pitch this weekend.

Prediction

Both these teams are mid-table dwellers – evenly matched across the pitch (as the closeness of the result in Toulouse indicated). The visitors will secure a bonus point, but will ultimately fall short and lose 17-10.

Ospreys vs Cardiff Blues

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Head to Head

Cardiff have a truely miserable record at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. One Anglo-Welsh Cup victory aside, the visitors have only won once, way back in 2005. Victories alone don’t describe the home team’s dominance. They have outscored Cardiff by more than three to one in tries scored, and by almost two to one in points scored. Two of the last three games have resulted in victories of more than 20 points for the home team. Last season, the home team ran out 46-24 victors – Cardiff’s equal worst defensive effort of the season (matched only by games in Kingsholm and Paris). With some sense of familiarity, last season’s game once again featured second half territorial domination by Cardiff coupled with an inability to break down the home team’s defence.

The Coaches

Facing the double whammy of playing in Swansea and enduring another game refereed by Nigel Owens, Danny Wilson has a very tough challenge preparing his team mentally for this game. Despite dominating the Scarlets (again) in both territory and possession, a lack of invention and penetration meant victory proved once more elusive. Meanwhile, Steve Tandy is approaching his fifth anniversary as coach of the Ospreys. He’s enjoyed a miserable start to the season, though with three victories in the last four games (and an unlucky defeat in Llanelli), are there signs that his team is turning the corner?

The Referee

Nigel Owens has refereed this fixture on no fewer than seven out of the last twelve times it has been played. Does this seem like a healthy state of affairs? In the last eleven games that 46 year old Owens has refereed Cardiff, the capital city-based team has won only once. In the last five games, he’s issued 5 cards to Cardiff players and none to the opposition. That sinking feeling that Cardiff fans feel when they see that Owens is about to ruin another game seems never-ending. Has the panto-season started yet?

Attack

The Ospreys have the worst offloading game in the Pro14 this season – averaging only 6 per game. Only Treviso and the Kings have run fewer meters on average per game. By way of contrast, Cardiff players have made more breaks than those from any other team in the league, but as we know, that means nothing if they don’t result in scores. And scoring tries is something very alien to the Ospreys. This season, they’ve managed only 18 in the league – the lowest total of any team. It’s difficult to describe this game as anything other than a basement battle when it comes to attacking prowess.

Set Piece

The Ospreys’ scrum ranks as one of the poorest in the league with an 86% success rate – but the visitor’s is hardly better at 89%. Lineout data shows that no team has won more lineouts than the Ospreys – perhaps a product of the tactical approach of the opposition they have faced. But nevertheless the Swansea-based team show a 93% success rate in this facet of play.

Defence

In the Scarlets game last week, five tackles were missed by two of Cardiff’s key players – Morgan and Anscombe. By some margin, it was Anscombe’s worst game of the season, and coming as it did against one of his team’s major rivals, questions will be raised as to his ability to perform on the big occasion. He also only carried the ball for a miserly 7m. By way of contrast, despite Morgan‘s weakness in defence, in attack he enjoyed an outstanding game – carrying the ball for an incredible 167 meters. He now stands head and shoulders above the rest in attacking effect.

Discipline

Cardiff’s propensity to conceded cards away from home must be a headache for Wilson. In six away games this season in the Pro14, they’ve conceded a yellow card in each game, and a further red thanks to Owen’s pedantry in Glasgow. They are also averaging 12.5 penalties a game away from home – with the Ospreys under seven at the Liberty. All the signs are there for further misery for fans of the visiting team.

Prediction

Despite the poor season the Ospreys are having, by almost any metric the visitors will struggle in this game. But, with the return from injury of many key players, they will come away with a losing bonus point, eventually going down 24-17.

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