If rugby teams are meant to function like machines then there was some severe programming errors in the Cardiff Blues software on Friday night as victory was thrown away, almost literally at times, thanks to a seemingly never ending onslaught of handling errors, poor passes and shoddy set pieces.
We conceded twenty turnovers during the game and down below I have 16 clips of errors, the vast majority of which are individual, from the 80 minutes in Galway. We cannot be making that many mistakes especially against what I thought were a distinctly average Connacht side.
There’s no arrows or circles this week, the errors are abundantly clear in the GIFs, and no analysis from me can suggest ways to fix these. This article is purely about highlighting that if this group of players, with a coach who is not entirely blameless, want to make it into that Pro12 top six then they need to be seriously pulling their socks up.
We’re going to start with the set piece, what should be the pillar of any good side’s game and has been largely effective for us until Friday night. The scrum was up and down all evening, but I felt the team selection didn’t particularly help in that sense.
I can see why Danny Wilson picked Rhys Gill, Kris Dacey and Scott Andrews to pack down, they are our most mobile yet experienced front row trio available and are not too bad scrummagers. However, on a cold Friday night in Galway, with an opposition pack well known for scrummaging and a firm pitch, I would have liked to have seen definitely Fa’ao Filise starting and probably Matthew Rees as well.
On both occasions the scrum is heading the wrong way, with clip one resulting in Connacht scoring the evening’s opening try, while clip two is Cardiff losing our own put-in as a result of having to rush the ball back to Josh Navidi’s feet causing him to mis-control.
The second clip is the most significant as with good field possession and the backs looking dangerous, it is a scoring opportunity squandered. Not the first time a set piece had wasted a promising looking attack either…
The first clip, a lineout deep inside the Connacht 22, is particularly disappointing due to the field position and having just over five minutes left on the clock. Risking going to the back, especially when the lineout came from a penalty won by the home side infringing at a driving maul, is a bad decision. Play it safe, stick to the front and drive them over.
Clip two is just a poor throw, and loses possession right in midfield where the backs love to attack on first phase play, as was shown on Friday as they broke through the Connacht line with ease. Of course, there wasn’t just two lineout errors though…
The first clip isn’t so bad as fortunately the overthrown ball falls straight to Jarrad Hoeata, however clip two is just poor again and worse, right on our own 22 giving Connacht the chance to effect a turnover and start their attack as close to our red zone as is possible.
Some serious work to be done on the set piece before the arrival of Ulster as when it works well it’s our biggest asset. However, when it goes wrong it immediately puts us on the back foot. Time for Wilson to step up and prove his worth as a forwards coach!
This was a bit of a problem on Friday night and comes as somewhat of a surprise as it’s been an area of great accuracy in the season so far, however it let us down in Galway and in some fairly inconspicuous places too…
The first effort from Kris Dacey is just plain lazy. Not under any particular pressure and with an obvious option outside him he just fails to throw the ball properly off his weaker hand. Not that professional rugby players should have weaker hands.
Clip two is even worse with no Connacht players even in shot when Tomos Williams’ pass is thrown and it misses Matthew Morgan by a distance. On both occasions it just takes the sting out of attacks, putting us on an immediate back foot.
There were plenty of further instances where passes failed to find the correct target, impeding players trying to run on to passes or putting them under pressure in midfield, but I don’t want to keep you all night.
Equally frustrating when it comes to stunting promising attacks are handling errors, and we definitely made a few of them on Friday….
Two particular handling errors that were costly are shown above. Matthew Morgan spills the ball while counter-attacking, Stacey Ili hacks on before being tackled, Connacht recycle the ball and score in the corner. Then Tomos Williams spills a simple ball from the lineout but take a look at the clock, just under three minutes to go, and Cardiff attacking looking to come home with some points.
In fairness to Williams, just like the loose pass before was late in the game, the young scrum-half was required to play the full 80 minutes for the first time in the Pro12 due to Danny Wilson’s reluctance to bring Rhodri Davies off the bench.
I understand why he may be hesitant to do that what with Davies being a semi-pro player, but he looked sharp in the Anglo-Welsh Cup while Williams was out on his feet towards the end in Galway, resulting in further errors again….
Of course there’s a distinct lack of blocking that doesn’t aid Williams, but I can’t help but feel a fresher scrum half is moving onto the ball and therefore is able to get away from the set piece area quicker.
Elsewhere there were also handling errors as the players tried to force try scoring opportunities…
The first clip is Rey Lee-Lo going for the miracle offload but not connecting with Willis Halaholo when just holding on to the ball and resetting the attack would be the best option. However it’s clips two and three that are interesting in terms of errors made, and make me sound somewhat hypocritical.
All I have talked about recently is returning to the expansive rugby we played in September. That worked so well as we moved the ball wide at the right times, carried up the middle when necessary and kept ball in hand well. Here though we twice go wide from Steve Shingler to Lee-Lo when the width option is not on and lose the chance to attack effectively.
It all adds to the error tally and like many above, costs us a very good attacking position. Nothing though cost us good chances to score than these next two clips….
Three times we got over the line on Friday, yet only Tom James actually took the ball with him as both Josh Turnbull and Matthew Morgan lost possession as they went to score.
Now in isolation there may not seem very many errors in each sub-heading, but when you’re looking at almost 20 in total it’s not acceptable, and certainly not conducive to winning games of rugby.
Plenty of work for Matt Sherratt to do this week as he returns full-time from Wales, and for Paul John as he goes back to his skills brief. As far as I can see it’s largely about decision making, the right lineout calls, the right time to go wide and the right team selection and substitutions.
Chances to score will come and go, but as long as you keep getting into positions to create them then you will score enough tries to win the game eventually. With the added internationals returning this weekend I am confident we can return to those early season heights, come on Cardiff!!!