Sorry to bring everyone down after yesterday! To look at this positively though, just three derby losses in a calendar year is not bad going at all. In fact, it’s our best record since 2011 when we only actually played five games against the other Welsh sides all calendar year anyway.
We had to wait until late April to taste our first defeat against Welsh opposition, and it came on the biggest stage of the domestic season at Judgement Day. In front of 50,000+ spectators Cardiff were confident coming into the game after four straight Pro12 victories, and another win here would put us right on course to make an unlikely late attempt to secure sixth place.
Danny Wilson named a strong side, although was hit by the late withdrawal of Tom James from the starting XV as his partner was due to give birth imminently. The three 7s back row of Sam Warburton, Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins were selected, although Wales captain Sam was carted off injured after just 30 minutes.
A tense first-half saw Cardiff with their noses ahead at the break thanks to the boot of Gareth Anscombe cancelling out a James King try, but it was the second half that really gave the event going Judgement Day spectators something exciting to witness.
The lead changed hands five times as an early Aled Summerhill try was pegged back by a Hanno Dirksen brace. Josh Navidi returned the lead to Cardiff before Sam Underwood scored for the Ospreys. With 10 minutes to go another Anscombe penalty gave us a glint of hope, but that was snatched away late as Rhys Webb scored a brace of his own against our tired defence lacking in leadership.
Yet another Ospreys defeat, and more would be to come, as we visited the Liberty Stadium in the new season. A strong start to 2016/17 had taken a hit the week before at home to Leinster, but there was still an air of confidence as we headed West.
New signing Nick Williams was starting, with the majority of the team being that which had gone four games unbeaten in September. As a result Cardiff started the strongest and a Kris Dacey try along with the boot of Gareth Anscombe put us into an early lead.
However, things then went downhill quickly. An Alun Wyn Jones try levelled the scores before Dan Fish tackled Sam Davies off the ball and went for 10 minutes in the sin bin. An Eli Walker brace, as well as a Dimitri Arhip score later, the game was far beyond us and a half-time score of 27-10 was a real sickening read.
The power and intensity of Ospreys pack literally washed us away as having Josh Turnbull and Macauley Cook in the engine room proved too lightweight up against Alun Wyn and Bradley Davies. Coupled with poor first up tackling and being unable to cope with the home side’s line speed, it was a recipe for disaster.
Further second half tries from Ben John, Dan Evans and Josh Matavesi, who embarrassed both Anscombe and Matthew Morgan on his way to the line, weren’t quite enough to get Ospreys to the half century of points, but still added up to a hammering for Cardiff despite consolation scores from Tom James and Rey Lee-Lo.
A 46-24 final scoreline was a real kick in the teeth and a stark awakening from the unbeaten dream that was September. There was little time to feel sorry for ourselves though as the opening two European games of the season required dispatching, with two comfortable wins setting up an immediate chance to restore Welsh pride against Llanelli.
Unfortunately the build up to Scarlets arrival at the Arms Park was massively dominated over an issue with Team Wales calling their players into camp before the Autumn Internationals and not releasing them for the Pro12 derbies.
As a result there were a high number of players missing from both sides, and Cardiff were particularly hit being left without a recognised blindside flanker thanks to Ellis Jenkins being retained by Wales even though he wasn’t in the squad!
This resulted in a complete lack of breakdown work, which when teamed up with a sloppy looking defensive line and poor first up tackling allowed Llanelli the freedom of CAP as they went 0-14 up after just 10 minutes thanks to Aaron Shingler and Jonathan Evans tries.
An opportunistic Tom James interception gave Cardiff hope as a series of attacking scrums almost got us into the game despite DTH Van Der Merwe extending the Turk lead, but Lloyd Linton’s failure to award a penalty try was disappointing, and he compounded a strange performance by managing to send the wrong Shingler brother into the sin bin later in the game.
A Hadleigh Parkes try within a minute of the second half turned out to be the match winner, as the Cardiff defence parted like the Red Sea for creator Rhys Patchell, while the attack could not take advantage of playing with an extra man for 20 minutes after the break.
Despite a moment of individual Blaine Scully brilliance, Llanelli returned West with a 15-26 win for the third and final Welsh derby loss this calendar year for Cardiff.
It’s not a bad stat but the nature of the two in the new season will worry Danny Wilson, as the derbies are such huge fixture and you’d like to hope the players are priding themselves on performances in these rival games. Especially after last season’s successes it represents a major step back.
Anyway, a win yesterday might see us back on track and tomorrow’s blog will be a more positive one when it comes to Welsh derbies!