As winter turned to spring the Guinness Pro12 took it’s Six Nations enforced break during March, with just two fixtures for Cardiff’s first team against Irish sides on the first and last weekends of the month.
An equally quiet month of the field was welcome ahead of a busy April, but ahead of that bumper month in a blog edition, remind yourself was happened in March as the season prepared to enter it’s final stage.
On the field
The month began with the visit of league high flyers Munster to the Arms Park, with Danny Wilson putting the pressure on his players in the build up to the game. The match brought the Six Nations block of fixtures to an end, and with three wins being targeted from the four games, it came down to this last match to meet the expectation.
Coming off the back of wins over Treviso and Edinburgh was a positive, but unfortunately there was a WRU shaped hindrance to pre-match preparations as Team Wales made the decision to withhold all squad players from the Welsh club sides, meaning Scott Andrews, Alex Cuthbert and Kris Dacey were unavailable for selection.
Rhys Gill also missed the game through injury, but there was some good news as Josh Navidi returned to fitness to start at openside. With the list of absentees growing again, it gave the likes of Corey Domachowski and Aled Summerhill to start, with Garyn Smith and Rhun Williams on the bench.
Munster dominated the first half, but a Nick Williams inspired defence held strong and Steve Shingler’s boot kept Cardiff in the game. Counter attacks from Lloyd Williams and Tom James kept us interested, but could not get over the line as we went in 3-6 down at the break.
The second half began under much the same pressure, but a moment of strong defence forced Munster into a mistake and Summerhill pounced for an interception try. Unfortunately a yellow card for Halaholo stunted any chance of momentum, and the visitors took advantage with two tries and four kicks to secure a 13-23 win.
Three weeks later, and with the Six Nations now out of the way, Cardiff were able to welcome back Andrews, Dacey and Cuthbert from Wales, as well as Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Gethin Jenkins and Ellis Jenkins from the treatment room.
A trip to Leinster is always a daunting one, but with the Irish side keeping an eye on their Champions Cup quarter-final the next week and Cardiff free from the pressure of clinging onto the top six there was an outside chance of competing for the visitors.
The game was a fantastic encounter, a real back and forth affair that started with Leinster scoring in five minutes thanks, in part, to a lucky bounce. Tomos Williams hit back not long later, finishing off a sharp counter attack, before Luke McGrath snuck over from close range to make the score 14-7 at half-time.
Tomos Williams finished off another fine counter attack from Cardiff as the second half began, before Sion Bennett took over finishing duties as the visitors soaked up a lot of pressure before hitting back with pace and width. Unfortunately the pressure told eventually as Leinster clinched victory by a point thanks to a Ross Molony try.
A scoreline of 22-21 would certainly have been taken prior to kick-off, and although there was a sense of disappointment at full-time over what might have been, it was vastly overridden by the confidence that should be taken from pushing league leaders all the way on their home patch.
With only one injury reported things were set up nicely for a European quarter-final away at Gloucester the next week, while European Champions Cup play-off rugby was all but confirmed for the end of the season, barring some miracle results.
As the build up for that mammoth encounter began, the on-field action for the month came to an end. Just two games for the first team, although the A team did complete their BIC campaign with a win at London Scottish, details of which can be found here.
Off the field
The quietest month off the field since time began saw just one notable news story, the end of season fixture with Newport Gwent Dragons will now take place at Caerphilly RFC’s Constructaquote Stadium. Nothing else happened.
Player of the Month
With only two games in the month, one of which being a slightly disappointing loss to Munster, it’s basically the man-of-the-match from the Leinster game who wins player of the month. Therefore, March’s Player of the Month is Tomos Williams, on the back of his excellent two-try performance in Dublin.