Cardiff secured a second bonus point win in a week as they ran eight tries past a lacklustre Treviso side. It really was a Good Friday for Danny Wilson’s men as, despite struggling slightly in the first half, the right to play was earned and there was some excellent rugby on display in the second half. With 10 points from a possible 10 we have now jumped above the Ospreys and are in with a real shout of the top six.
The team was picked to play fast and expansive rugby as a back three of Rhys Patchell, Dan Fish and Tom James started behind the returning Welsh internationals Gareth Anscombe and Lloyd Williams. Gethin Jenkins and Sam Warburton also returned in the forwards alongside U20 Grand Slam winner Dillon Lewis. Despite this attacking team though it was down to Ellis Jenkins coming off the back of a rolling maul to open the scoring after eight minutes.
From then on the first half was a bit of a scrappy affair. Gareth Anscombe and Jayden Hayward traded penalties but that was it in the way of scoring opportunities as a solid Cardiff defence was matched by an error strewn Cardiff attack. Once or twice we looked like getting around the outside through Dan Fish and Garyn Smith but the touchline intervened. We were being drawn into a forwards battle which isn’t what you want against Treviso, and not for the first time they would disrupt a driving maul.
It took until close to the break for the team to realise that we were better out wide and on the back of a Rey Lee-Lo half break the ball was spun wide to Josh Navidi who finished expertly in the corner with a spin out of one tackle and a drive over the line. Anscombe converted for a comfortable 17-3 lead at half-time but the game wasn’t quite out of reach, I’m sure Wilson had some choice words in the dressing room.
Whatever was said worked though as within two minutes of the restart Lee-Lo was over the line. Josh Turnbull, making his 50th Cardiff appearance, broke a tackle and made yards into Treviso’s 22. The ball was recycled quickly out to the Samoan who stepped inside beautifully to grab his first Cardiff try. The hunt for the bonus point commenced and although it was only a matter of time it still took over 10 minutes. An over reliance on a struggling driving maul meant we were in the right areas of the field but attacking in the wrong way.
Eventually it was an opportunistic moment that got the fourth try when our stronger scrum pushed Treviso off their own ball. Josh Navidi took the tap penalty and looked as if he may have got over the line himself, but the ball came back for Kristian Dacey to sneak over on the blindside with the help of Gethin Jenkins. 27-3 up and bonus point secured meant the game was basically over. The Cardiff defence also seemed to think so as Marco Lazzaroni was allowed to score out wide for the visitors.
Fortunately that was it in terms of scoring for the away side, paving the way for a Cardiff rout. Four tries in the last 10 minutes will be a big confidence boost and a nice addition to the points difference. First up was Manoa Vosawai as the maul persistence finally paid off again. Then a lovely move through the hands ended up with Dan Fish feeding Tom James to go over for his 10th try in all competitions.
With the Treviso defence looking out on it’s legs Lewis Jones went for a tap and go before letting Fish have his own moment in the spotlight as he turned on the after burners from 40 metres. Jarrod Evans missed the conversion to bring up the 50 points, but made up for it by creating the best, and last, try of the night. Taking the ball in midfield he threw a delightful dummy and raced through the gap created before releasing Aled Summerhill on the outside who’s looped inside pass found Rhys Patchell to cross the whitewash.
Eight tries and an overall successful night, although still areas to improve on. The never ending driving mauls were a problem, although that came more from the fact that neither the coaches or players could see they weren’t working. Wilson said after the game that “we scored two driving lineouts but I would have liked to have seen us going over early. It took us a good few to get over, but it’s a wearing down process against a big and powerful team like Treviso.” Really though we should have been wearing them down by stretching them through our running game, not taking them on at the physicality they do best.
Llanelli away next week will provide an entirely different challenge though as they are a team in serious form. After their win away at Ospreys they are high in confidence and playing some excellent rugby. It won’t be a case of wearing them down or playing a specific style of rugby to beat them, we will have to be at the top of all parts of our game. Then add to that a serious amount of bottle and we may have a chance of winning. It will be the toughest game of Danny Wilson’s reign so far I’d say, but we do have the quality to do it, as long as the right version of Cardiff turn up.