Monthly Archives: March 2018

Cardiff Blues vs Ulster Rugby

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Head to Head

The Cardiff vs Ulster fixture has a long history, with the teams first meeting in the European Cup in 1995. But one of Cardiff’s biggest home victories was in January 2001, with a team featuring a Neil Jenkins masterclass. Overall, Cardiff are ahead with twelve wins to six in this fixture, but in latter years it’s been the Ulstermen who have generally had the upper hand. The respective try count for the two sides stands at 39-36 in favour of the home side which is a sign of how close this fixture has been over the years.

The Coaches

Not the Ospreys favourite player, Jono Gibbes joined Ulster from Clermont in the summer of 2017. Originally working under Kangaroos star and Director of Rugby Les Kiss, he took the top job when Kiss was unceremoniously dumped by Ulster in January.  It’s been an unhappy season for Gibbes, with his team having won only three times away from home under his stewardship. He too will leave Ulster at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Danny Wilson has designs on becoming Cardiff’s third most successful coach in the modern era, behind Dai Young and Yoda.

The Referee

Scotland’s Mike Adamson will referee this weekend’s fixture. He’s in his second season as a Pro14 referee and will be refereeing Cardiff for the third time. In true Pro14 tradition, despite featuring for Glasgow at outside half, he’s also refereed the team as well. Nevertheless, he’s one of a rare breed of referees who’ve also played the game as a professional – so all power to his elbow. As homer’s go, he’s firmly mid-table. However, when it comes to issuing cards, Mike is at the top of the league, averaging one and a half per game this season. Ulster have a 50-50 win ratio with Mike on the whistle and this season in the Pro14, only two away teams have won when Mike was reffing.

Attack

Ulster have scored 55 tries in 16 Pro14 games this season at a rate of 3.5 tries per game. That puts them near the top for the potency of their attack. Where their hosts have a deficit on tries for vs tries against, Ulster have a surplus. They have also been highly efficient at picking up bonus points. Seven times they’ve score three or more tries in a game, and on five occasions they’ve gone on to secure bonus points. By way of contrast, Cardiff have a miserable record. Despite having scored three or more tries on eight occasions, they have only secured three bonus points and this has been their Achilles heal this season.

Set Piece

Cardiff have conceded 13 scrums against the head this season – one of the poorest in the league – whilst Ulster have lost possession on their own put-in on nine occasions. However, at the lineout, only the Ospreys can boast fewer lost lineouts on their own throw. Curiously enough, both Ulster and Cardiff have won 184 lineouts this season in the Pro14 coming into this fixture.

Defence

Cardiff have one of the hardest working defences in the league and have made almost 350 more tackles than Ulster this season.  They are conceding 2.8 tries (on average) per game, as opposed to 2.9 tries by the Ulstermen. The home side is averaging a tackle completion ration of 88% per game, with the corresponding figure for the visitors standing at 86% – the same figure as their average away completion ratio in the Pro14 this season. A cumulative figure of 52 tackles were missed by both teams during this season’s trouncing of the The Kings in Belfast. In their home victory over Treviso in November, Ulster made 179 tackles during the game.

Discipline

Although this season hasn’t been the happiest for the Ulstermen, they are one of the most disciplined teams in the league. They have only conceded four yellow cards. Cardiff meanwhile have conceded two and a half times that figure and have one of the poorest disciplinary records in the league.  Ulster have conceded the fewest number of away penalties in the league. Consequently, they are averaging a yellow card every 30 penalties, whereas Cardiff’s figure is 18 penalties per card.

Prediction

This game will be another closely-fought fixture between the two teams. Wilson has picked a strong Cardiff side, with a very similar team likely to feature in Edinburgh next weekend. The home side is striving for a fifth victory on the trot in the Pro14 whilst Ulster haven’t won away from home since their Champions Cup victory versus Harlequins in December. The momentum is with the home side and they will squeeze to a narrow 22-16 victory.

Cardiff Blues vs Benetton Treviso

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Head to Head

Cardiff first faced Treviso back in the 1999-2000 season when we voted Dan Baugh as our man of the match. That game saw a narrow victory for the home team and since then Cardiff have gone on to rack up eight victories in a row over Treviso at the Arms Park. In recent years the fixture has been an open one, with Cardiff breaching the 50 points mark in the most recent two games.

The Coaches

New Zealand-born Kieran Crowley joined Treviso following a stint as coach of the Canadian national team, and he’s gone on to become one of Treviso’s most successful coaches in the modern era. So far this season, the Italians have already recorded eight victories in the Pro14 – only two shy of their best-ever 2012-2013 season. Danny Wilson will be looking to end his career at the Arms Park on a high, where his present win-loss record across all games (friendlies included) stands at 50%.

The Referee

Forty-four year old John Lacey (the second oldest official in the league) will referee his 68th Pro14 game this weekend. He originally played for Munster, a team he’s never refereed – of course.  Treviso have only won 29% of their games when John officiates. This fixture will be only his fifth this season, and he’s averaging 19.5 penalties per game.

Attack

Treviso rank towards the bottom of the table when it comes to points efficiency. They are averaging one point every 2.11 minutes, with almost a minute difference between them and the Cheetahs – the most clinical team in the league. This season, the Italians have scored 46 tries across all competitions and look set to break their best record of 54 tries in the 2012-2013 season. Whilst there’s been some improvement in Cardiff’s defensive record this season, their attacking threat has rapidly diminished. This season could well become their worst in three years for number of tries scored. Treviso have the record for the lowest number of meters run with ball-in-hand this season. Whilst they are averaging over 3m per carry, that lags a little behind Cardiff this season. There is little to choose between the two teams when it comes to frequency of kicks – at home, the Welshmen average 22 per game, and away from home Treviso’s average is only one less.

Set Piece

Cardiff’s lineout remains one of the strongest in the league, having lost fewer lineouts on their own throw than any other team. Their scrum stats are less impressive and Treviso will look to exert pressure in this facet of play.

Defence

Both Cardiff and Treviso rank near the top of the table for tackle completion ratio in the Pro14 – only Edinburgh ranks higher. In their last outing in Parma, Cardiff once more topped 200 in attempted tackles in one game, a good sign of the tenacity and application of the squad. Whilst Treviso have yet to record such high figures, an analysis of their record reveals consistency across the board – whether playing home or away.

Discipline

Treviso – along with the Cheetahs – are the most carded team in the league this season. One reason could be that whilst the Scarlets receive a card once every 61 penalties, a Treviso player is carded every 13 penalties. Cards are fairly evenly spread between home and away games. There is not too much to choose between the two teams when it comes to penalties conceded per game, and Treviso’s discipline away from home is far from the worst in the league.

Prediction

Although Treviso have won their last two away games in the Pro14 – in Newport and Parma – they have a miserable away record overall. The home team are discovering a new intensity to their game and seem determined to end the season on a high. With key players returning from injury, despite the loss of Welsh squad members, Cardiff will be too strong for an Italian side also shorn of its better players thanks to the ludicrous timing of this fixture. Whilst the home side won’t reach the heights of recent fixture between these two teams, they will secure a rare bonus point victory and record a 35-11 victory.

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