Cardiff made a losing return to the Arms Park after two months away thanks to the World Cup, as we went down in a narrow defeat to reigning Pro12 champions Glasgow. The home side, who in different parts in the game were leading 17-8 and 23-18, conceded 17 unanswered points in 13 minutes towards the end of the game, with only a penalty try at the death salvaging a bonus point.
It was another day of strong attack, but disappointing defence as Glasgow left with four tries and a bonus point of their own. Particularly disappointing for increasingly under fire defence coach, Graham Steadman, is the number of missed one-on-one tackles, as well as the weaknesses around the fringes of the breakdown. The only positive off the ball was the increased discipline and lack of cards.
Cardiff were boosted by the return of Wales World Cup stars, Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, Lloyd Williams and Alex Cuthbert to the starting line-up, as well as Samoan centre Rey Lee Lo making his debut and Kristian Dacey making his return from injury at hooker, alongside Tau Filise making his 200th appearance for the club. Those big name returns were timely for us, but nothing in comparison to the wave of Scottish internationals returning to Glasgow, who’s season had got off to an indifferent start, as their squad returned to the quality of that which won the league last year.
In front of a slightly disappointing 5,700 crowd at CAP, the game got off to a flying start, as Glasgow’s Finn Russell and Rhys Patchell exchanged penalties in the first 10 minutes. Cardiff were slightly on the front foot as Turnbull then Cuthbert gained ground, before Patchell got another shot at the posts and give us the lead, which he extended a few moments later with a monster penalty from halfway. However, a Glasgow penalty into the corner penned us back on our line, a resulting scrum keeping us there, and even though Williams brought down his opposite number Hart, nobody could stop lock Nakarawa diving over the ruck and touching down. Credit to Cardiff though, they didn’t stop playing, and soon we were scoring tries of our own. Tom James made the line break, Lloyd went sniping, before Dan Fish recycled the ball quickly, through the hands of Patchell and James Down, to Gavin Evans on the overlap who finished off the move. Unfortunately Patchell, who is rumoured to be moving on from the Arms Park soon, couldn’t add the extras, but made up for it a few minutes later with an even bigger monster kick than before, inside our half this time. Leading 17-8 heading into the break sounds great, but it’s not very Cardiff-like, and true to form, a clean break from Tommy Seymour set up his wing colleague Taqele Naiyaravoro to bring Glasgow two points behind at half-time.
It was still a lead, albeit being a bit slimmer than it could’ve been, heading into the second half, however it only lasted two minutes before Finn Russell kicked Glasgow ahead. The teams stayed separated by a single point for 20 minutes from then as the game to’d and fro’d in a quite breathless manner, although neither team really threatened the line, until Lloyd’s inside pass was intercepted by Russell who ran clear until the covering Patchell chased him down fantastically to stop a certain try. As if to emphasise how much of a miss he might be for Cardiff, Rhys picked himself up from the tackle to nail two more penalties in the next couple of minutes, one of which also resulted in a yellow card for Ryan Wilson as we ramped up the pressure on the champions. Unfortunately, more Cardiff-itis hit us, and not only did we fail to make the extra man pay, we managed to make it a hindrance as substiute prop Ryan Grant went over from close range and put Glasgow on the front foot, so that when they returned to full strength, captain Jonny Gray extended their lead, along with a Russell penalty tow minutes later to put the nail in the coffin. Cardiff did try to keep positive and attack, which secured a bonus point in the end after Hogg’s deliberate knock on prevented Dan Fish or Tom James from a certain try, but gained us a penalty try instead. Unfortunately, with the last plays of the game and Hogg in the bin, we couldn’t make the extra man pay again and a Glasgow turned over ended the game.
Full time: Cardiff 30-35 Glasgow
A thralling game for the neutral I’m sure, and on any other day I would’ve come away from CAP a very happy man having watching a cracking match and Cardiff getting a bonus point having run the champions close. However, with Saturday’s loss making it five on the bounce, and having had plenty of opportunity to win that match, and win it comfortably, it’s more a feeling of disappointment. The defence is still looking very dodgy, the attack can’t take advantage of an extra man and Danny Wilson’s substitutions are still somewhat odd, Patchell again finishing at centre, and my MotM Ellis Jenkins being taken off at a crucial time in the game. Anyway, it’s a break from the league for the next two weeks as European action begins, starting with Calvisano away next week, and there’d be no better team to get the season going. Come on Cardiff!