Two wins in nine games is now the record Cardiff Blues have in the Pro12 after yet another away defeat in the Pro12 as Glasgow secured a bonus point win in front of a sol-out Scotstoun. Now six points off the all-important sixth place, and with occupiers Ulster having a game in hand against Italian opposition, hopes of automatic Champions Cup qualification now seem a long way off.
Danny Wilson made two changes to the side which lost to Llanelli on New Year’s Day, with Blaine Scully and Anton Peikrishvili taking the places of Rhun Williams and Fa’ao Filise, as they returned from injury and suspension respectively.
It was Glasgow who made all the early headway in the must-win clash for Cardiff, with Tommy Seymour on the end of a Fin Russell inside pass for the first line break of the evening. Josh Strauss was able to take the ball right up the redzone, however Josh Navidi kept the scoreline at 0-0 by holding up opposite number Ryan Wilson over the line.
However, after a forced turnover and scrambled clearance, Glasgow were soon back camped on our try line, and after going through a few phases, Pat MacArthur was able to reach out for the opening try. Finn Russell added the extras to make it 7-0 after 12 minutes, without Cardiff having any possession of note.
In fact it took until the 20th minute for the away side to put any sort of phases together, however when they did it almost resulted in a try. Lloyd Williams manufactured a nice half-break, with quick-ish ball giving Willis Halaholo a chance to step and draw the man, put the ball through the hands of Rey Lee-Lo and find Alex Cuthbert, only for the winger to drop the ball over the line.
Then from the Glasgow clearance, Matthew Morgan returned the ball with interest before putting Cuthbert through a gap, only for the ball to go loose from contact once again. It was a tough day at the office all-in-all for the Wales winger, but I refuse to believe he is sub-standard. He still has the quality, but I’ve never known someone be such a confidence player, letting one mistake effect his whole game.
With possession back Glasgow returned to the redzone, with only a last ditch Rhys Gill tackle denying the home side off the back of a driving maul, before the ball was spilled in midfield. Rey Lee-Lo collected and went to take off downfield, only to inexplicably drop the bar of soap in his hands as he saw his name in lights.
Glasgow managed to win a penalty from the resulting scrum to stretch the lead, before a moment of good fortune saw Cardiff finally get on the scoreboard. Finn Russell went to chip the ball wide inside his own 22, but Steve Shingler got a hand to it and Blaine Scully stole in to collect the loose ball and win a foot race to the corner.
Shingler kicked an excellent version to make the scoreline a massively undeserved 10-7 at half-time. Hardly any possession or territory, three handling errors on our three attacks and a totally dominant Glasgow attack should have put us so far behind, however we were still in touch and a big second half performance could bring up trumps.
Within two minutes we were drawn level thanks to a Kris Dacey won penalty kicked by Shingler, however a further five minutes on and Glasgow retook the lead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances.
Tommy Seymour made a line break from a fluid first phase attack, before drawing Matthew Morgan and feeding Alex Dunbar. Blaine Scully made a cracking late tackle to bring him down short, and got straight back on his feet to compete for the ball. Peter Murchie came in to clear out, didn’t do a great job, but managed to rip the ball from both players and spin backwards over the line.
Their second try had no element of luck though as Ali Price sniped from the ruck, created a massive hole for Tommy Seymour to break through. He was eventually stopped by Halaholo, but the ball was recycled and moved left quickly for Peter Murchie again to score in the corner.
Five minutes later the bonus point was secured as Glasgow’s dominant attacking maul drove us back-and-back until replacement hooker James Malcolm was able to bundle over the line. A first missed conversion from Finn Russell, but with the scores at 29-10 with 15 minutes to go, it was all but game over.
Cardiff did have enough phases to threaten in the second half but a continuation of errors from knock-ons, intercepted and loose passes, and poor kicking was a never-ending stream of frustration, a nice way to sum up the last four away games in the Pro12 really.
There was a marked change though when Nicky Robinson took the field and Steve Shingler moved out to 12. The King was able to stand much flatter, offering much better service to those outside him who wanted to take the ball over the gain line, or shovelling possession out the back to Shingler who could open the wide channels.
It was the two outside-halfs who combined to create a consolation try in the dying minutes as an overthrown Glasgow lineout was swept up by Matthew Rees to Shingler, who popped the ball up to Robinson coming around the corner. He floated a beautiful pass for replacement winger Rhun Williams to go over in the corner.
The conversion was missed but a last minute Cardiff penalty saw Robinson push us into the home 22 in search of a losing bonus point. What happened? You guessed it, a knock on. No points and a game of being second best as we leave Pro12 action until February.
Seemingly consigned to the bottom half of the league and with little hope of automatic Champions Cup qualification, it may be that Danny Wilson revises his thoughts on Europe playing second fiddle to a successful Pro12 campaign. It would certainly be nice to come out of this season with at least one positive story overall.
Having said that, I would like to see a bit of a change-up in next week’s squad to head to Pau. Rhys Gill and Ellis Jenkins looked shaky with injury after Saturday, possibly allowing Brad Thyer a chance to start, and I’d like to see Macauley Cook reverted to flanker and either Seb Davies or BJ Edwards start alongside James Down.
In the backs it is now time for Lloyd Williams to be relieved of the nine shirt in place of Tomos Williams, while the Nicky Robinson and Steve Shingler 10/12 combination looks worth exploring. Especially as it would give Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo to have a much deserved rest.
All-in-all it’s becoming another disappointing season at the Arms Park, but let’s wipe the slate clean on a return to Europe and play with a bit of freedom. Time to cut the soundbites of putting pressure on ourselves and talking a lot about mistakes. Go back to basics and play rugby to our direct and fast strengths. Come on Cardiff!