Cardiff Blues

20 February, 2014

Cardiff Arms Park

Spectators: 5,063

Andrew McMenemy
Cardiff usually fair well with McMenemy. Prior to this game, he'd ref'd Cardiff seven times with only one loss for the bois. But in this game he'd clearly made his mind up before kick off who was going to win. Somehow he missed the obstructions, jersey pulling and general niggle at the breakdown from the away side, and did his best to slow the tempo of the game.
worth annoying the wife factor
our man of the match
Josh Navidi
Gareth Davies (1)
Kristian Dacey (1)
Dan Fish (1)
Gareth Davies (2)
Gareth Davies (1)
our choice for next week

vs Zebre

k.o. time: 4:00 pm

1 March, 2014

Stadio XXV Aprile

Dan Fish
Isaia Tuifua
Gavin Evans
Harry Robinson
Gareth Davies
Lewis Jones
Robin Copeland
Josh Navidi
Ellis Jenkins
Filo Paulo
James Down
Scott Andrews
Kristian Dacey
Sam Hobbs

Cardiff failed to add a second victory in fifteen outings against Leinster at an empty CAP in a battle of two second XVs. To be fair to Phil Davies, calling the Cardiff XV a second XV is harsh - it was almost a third XV with around 24 players out. Leinster faired little better with 14 first XV players out. Clearly in such circumstances any semblance of a true league is impossible, with so many fixtures devalued thanks to blazer intervention.

Whilst the gulf in funding between the two sides is obviously a factor in fielding competitive teams, it was still clear that Leinster were far better prepared for the attritional nature of modern professional rugby than were the home side. Full of fancy angles of running and pace of the mark, they lacked the power to combat a fairly limited Leinster approach that simply relied on the physical to blow away a powder puff Cardiff team. There was nothing new on show - we've seen the same thing just about every game this season.

However well the line out functioned, or the players competed, without the necessary armoury of power and physicality, they dropped off so many soft tackles that the evening proved a field day for Leinster's straight runners. Cardiff are seriously under-powered and seriously under-prepared for modern rugby. They looked like a team of part timers who really hadn't done the necessary gym work to compete - and let's be honest, many are.

The away team started at a canter and looked likely to blow away Cardiff with yet another 60 pointer - just like they did in Dublin in October 2010. But for all their physical frailty, one thing that most of the home side certainly didn't lack was ticker and application. Leinster surged into a 14-0 lead with converted tries from Conan and Strauss. Conan was making an impressive debut and Strauss is a veteran of 36 Super 14 games. Jimmy Gopperth was a junior All Black and another with Super 14s experience who led his back line with ease.

Facing Gopperth was Cardiff's very own Gareth Davies - he of many years in the Rags and drafted in to cover for Patchell. Not to be outdone, it was the Premiership veteran who slid through some pretty feeble tackles to go under the posts and score Cardiff's first try of the evening. With lazy Leinster looking leaden footed, Denton somehow got himself yellow carded for handling the ball in the ruck and the home team suddenly found a new gear. Quite why the ref chose to suddenly card Denton was a mystery. It wasn't as if he was suddenly doing something that his team mates hadn't been making a habit of all game. Either way, we whitnessed the bizarre site of a Cardiff driving maul resulting in Dacey notching up yet another try. The pack looked cohesive, fired up and skilled in controlling the drive and deserved their score.

Meanwhile, Leinster looked like disorganised and lazy - ever fearful of Fish's speed and Gareth Davies' elusiveness.

But youthful exuberance wasn't enough from a home side playing with plenty of vigour. Their more powerful opponents lapped up the contact area and swallowed up the space. With the ref blind to the shirt pulling and hands everywhere, they successfully slowed the game down to a pace better suited to muscle over speed. Gareth Davies continued to rack up the points and took his team to within two, with Cardiff only 15-17 down.

But poor discipline and unforced errors led to more penalties for his experienced Kiwi opponent who - despite some real shockers which he missed - managed 14 points from the game. Bent and Reddan scored simple tries - the latter through a gaping hole which Scott Andrews left as he chose to throw punches instead of defending his line. Sure the officials were worse than useless and ignore the obstruction, but his job was to defend his line, not run the risk of depleting the squad further as a result of throwing punches.

Cardiff's self belief was strong and the bois continued to try to play the game at pace, despite the best efforts of the ref who did his best to try to slow down the quick tap penalties. Fish slithered over for a deserved try and there was still nigh on 20 minutes to go. Could they pull off an unlikely victory? Uh, no. Phil Davies may hope that his lightweight fast-game approach may tire the opposition in the final quarter, but all that seems to happen is that his own players tire and are easily outmuscled by more powerful opponents. Cardiff simply couldn't get hold of the ball. O'Ruddock had too much power and - by contrast - Cardiff's bench actually seemed to weaken the team on the pitch.

If truth be told, Leinster racked up their four tries barely breaking sweat. They played well within themselves. Their opponents looked like annoying flies - easily swatted away when the moment warranted and unable to make any sort of impact. Traditionally, Cardiff have always tried to blood youth with a core of experience to guide them. But when that experience really is sub-standard, the future looks bleak.

The new coaching staff are used to coaching this level of players, so it will be interesting to see if they can take them to the next level. Excelling amongst a bunch of semi-pros and amateurs is one thing, but the power and pace of professional rugby players means that there's a huge gap between what the Chef and Paul John are used to.

There's more grim results to come this season, and it's difficult to see a victory on the horizon. The coffers are empty, the club continues to allow the WRU to decide on selection and the hospital ward is overflowing. The club's slide into oblivion is set to continue. And yet the supporters still come. It was simply astounding that over 5,000 souls turned up to watch that game. They deserve better.

Dan Fish
A real spark in the back line - elusive running, inventive angles and a nice turn of speed. But there's not much bulk on show and a lack of power means that he's still not really ready for this level of competition. Needs a year in the gym and another 10kg. If he can maintain his pace with that extra bulk, then he has a promising future.